Fiji Australia 2004
6.7.05
Winkmeister/ Ole Buddy-Pal Friendo,

Darwin, Australia -- Now I have two seemingly caring and enthusiastic young ladies as crew, one 33 yo and English, one 25 yo and French. the English gal is away taking dive lessons, but will be on board the 13 +/-. The French girl is working at a crocodile farm, living on a bus line to work until the 15th. I am busily getting ready to sail on the 17th. The boat is pretty close to ready, meaning the to do list is less than a page and really ready to go but for some water maker parts to install and various lubricants to change. All else is either cosmetic, groceries or able to be done under way.

The pain is beauracratic government. The Aussies won't check me out of the country until the 12 Ga shotgun is aboard, needing a week's notice, and I can't buy fuel without tax until I am checked out. I also can't leave without a legal visa for this country, and immigration has been fooling about in renewing my expired one for two months. The last hurdle was to require a chest Xray (at my cost!!!) because I was in Mexico for over 3 months in the last 5 years. They want to save Aussies from TB, but didn't care the first 6 months I was in the country.

Indonesia, on the other hand, requires a cruising yacht to have a CAIT or
Cruising Permit to stay in the country over 72 hours (3 months actually). It takes an agent in country 4-6 weeks to get one. The good news is that my Bali agent delivered the CAIT over the net today. The bad news is that a CAIT must list each crew member by first sending a copy of each passport; doable in an internet cafe, not from the boat. My approved crew is now in Wyoming. Hopefully I will have sent copies of passports for both the gals to the agent today and he will deliver the new CAIT by email in a week or so. To get him to do this I send him another $50. No problem. To do this, I deposit the bucks in an Aussie bank account and email him a copy of the deposit slip. None of the internet cafes here have scanners, so I bought and installed one. I can't send documents however over the Ham system, so I put them on a floppy, take them to Darwin and send from an internet cafe. Very irritating.  The agent in Bali also will provide each of us with a "Social Letter" wherein he swears each of us to be known by him and swell people. IF he gets that to us 5 days before we leave here, we can get renewable 60 day visas. If not, the only visa we can get on arrival is a non renewable 30 day visa to go with the 90 day renewable cruising permit.  Singapore, Malaysia
and Thailand are all supposed to be MUCH easier. Let us hope so. Ain't cruising relaxing?? Actually I feel a lot better having dumped all this frustration on you.

Darwin is a surprisingly bitchin’ place. Wouldn't want to be here in summer though. The call that the wet season. I guess it rains hard for weeks at a time. Lots of lovely back packers here. Look great.
Love, Denny

4.29.05
Up here the winds have been too light.  Isn't that the way of sailors? We were at Dunk Island last night and had a good time at the pub, but it was pretty rolly. Now just 21 miles up the coast at Mourilyn Harbor. It is bullet proof here anchored in the river but nothing to do off the boat. The last two days we have had a lot of rain. Tomorrow it is off to Fitzroy Island or Cairns depending on the mood. If you get REAL lonely, remember you are only 48 hours from Cairns. You can catch up whenever the mood strikes. I suspect we will leave Cairns for the top on the 6th.

Denny


4.18.05
Pearl Bay is pretty, Island Head very secure but not too scenic. Percys were a challenge for me due to strong trades. NE Percy  is safe and scenic, Scawfell is also nice and bullet proof in trades. Don't be tempted by W Percy unless trades are vary light and you love to roll, and my very worst night was at S Percy.

Whitsundays were great but I got restless after 5 days, so I did 74 miles to Cape Upstart today. It was a nice sail, but now the winds are howling. No roll here, but I am getting gusts to 40. It is now sunset. Maybe they will settle down.

Love, Denny

4.14.05
Dear Greatest Ski Professor in the WWW,
I had a good night at Scawfell. Helped a guy recover his anchor when his new Stainless Steel chain broke. I have been thinking of changing as SS is a good value in Aussie (as compared to diesel at over $4 US a gallon). Anyway, bad idea. Guess I will stick to the stuff that rusts. Scawfell and the next island 37 miles away yesterday are beautiful. The landscape has changed. Instead of just rugged beauty, these islands have pines and some palms. The beaches are white sand that is apparently typical of the Whitsundays. Still no people. The last 3 island groups  and 6 anchorages are national parks without caretakers or facilities.

So, this morning I ran the last 16 miles from solitude to Hamilton Island and marina. This is much like what Catalina might be if the whole island were developed. It is beautifully done, expensively. No cars. Electric golf carts only. I am digging being around people, even screeching kids at one of the pools today. After over 2 weeks of day sailing of hiding out from weather, this is a dandy change. I am planning on putting on slacks tonight and spending a LOT for dinner. After 1 more night here, I will buy a bunch of fuel (ouch!) and head out to cruise the Whitsunday Islands for a week or so.

Love, Denny Bullamacow


4.11.05
Dear Pal of long standing,

I left the Percy Islands two hours ago and am now passing between Pine Peak and Sphinx Islands, two others you have never heard of. I am headed for an anchorage at Scawfell Island, 60 miles away, that is rumored to be free of swell. That would be nice. Not many of the cruisers are under way as the trades have been very strong for over a week, caused by a high way south and a couple of lows, in the Tasman and up north. The effect , for reasons beyond my technical knowledge, is to make the SE Trades hoot. 

Today the forecast backed off a bit to 20-25 knots and I went for it. There also are pretty strong currents here, often reaching 2-3 knots in open waters, but not always predictable. When those flow against 25 knot trades, they get your ole pal the negative kind of excited. I just came through an hour of that. Glad it wasn't blowing 40. Seas only got up to 15' or so, but breaking and less than 100' apart. The good news, no cross seas due to the Barrier ReefI am soo happy to be going down wind.

I am pretty close to dead down wind with just the Genoa on the pole to Stbd and averaging 7.5 knots, with bursts to 9+. To steady out the roll, and get a bit more speed, I would like to set the DR Main, but hate to go forward single handing if I don't need to. Yes, I am wearing a harness. Maybe later in the day if the seas become a bit more predictable.

Boat speed has improved markedly since the fresh bottom job in Bundaberg. I also tried a product called Prop Speed that is supposed to keep the prop and shaft free of growth for at least a year and a half. It was pretty expensive ($250 plus labor installed), but what a great improvement if it works. Stuff grows so fast in some parts of the world as to make an unscrubbed prop ineffective. The boat the hauled before me had been unattended for 6 months. When headed for the Travellift bay, he put it in reverse and nothing happened. The prop turned in reverse and made turbulence only.

After Scawfell Island I have another day long run to Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays. It is a big resort where I can get fuel, groceries, a posh meal, and talk to some people. I am finding I am ill suited do doing without society for more than 3-4 days. Then is a few days in the Whitsundays before  heading toward Townsville and Cairns. I am due to Meet new crew Josh Hollinger there 4-27 and Alvin Koo on 5-5. I am hoping to switch Josh to Townsville to relax the schedule and make for some slow cruising time. Scenery is supposed to be great between Townsville and Cairns, a 160 mile coast.

Seas are settling down a bit, or I am getting used to them. Guess I'll go sail.

Love, Denny

PS: Arrived in the anchorage as planned. Tired. Average 7.44 knots. Not bad for genoa only.

4.9.05
Nasty night. Wind to 40+ in squalls and very rolly. The crummy forecast lasts one more night, then back to 20-25 and fast sailing again. I moved 7 miles this am to NE Percy Island where it is still blowing, but much better protection and less swell wrap. Beautiful, wild place. There is a trawler in here with me. Nice
to have company.

Denny


4.8.05
I guess I just got bored hunkered down at Island Head Creek waiting for good weather, so today I blasted off the 50 miles to South Percy Island. The tidal currents in this area are significant and pretty lumpy when apposing the strong trades. I ran into the condition off the SW tip of S Percy. It caused breaking
3-4.5 meter seas and made steering difficult for a little while. I only had one squall underway and am getting another now in the anchorage 1 hour after getting the anchor down. This is a rolly spot in these conditions (very strong trades to 30+) but is secure. Nice sand bottom and has a great looking beach. From here
there is nowhere close to hide, so let's hope for nicer weather.

This is a big island and I am again the only boat so far. I am getting a little tired of solitude. You all should get under way and keep me company. Have I not made getting underway sound attractive??

Denny


4.6.05
Thanks. Still stuck waiting for weather to settle out. I just keep reading. Today a skiff from a boat around the point who heard me on the radio came by. They will pick me up for dinner. Yahoo, people! I think it has been 5 days. I am so excited, I am baking brownies.

Denny
I have about 20 oz of a 28 oz bottle of Tuong ot Siriracha bottled by Huy Fong Foods from when you were on the boat before, I think. If that is the same stuff, it's here. I will think about other stuff. My brownies came out pretty good, but I am down to the last mix. When I next go shopping I will see that you are
supplied. Crappy weather is forecast to continue a few more days with 30 knots and squalls. Raining all morning. It would be a good day for checking out the lovelies at Starbucks.


4.2.05
G'morning Capt Koo,

This place where I am anchored is a tidal estuary with no people. Pretty unusual for Australia. It is in a peninsula on the outside of Thirsty Sound. Much of the area is reserved for Army training but they ain't doing any and the area is wilderness. The sound was named by Cook as he was not able to get water here.

This area gets pretty big tides and I came in yesterday afternoon, winding my way through some shallow spots without really considering the tides. I did check them, but was tired and didn't think through the effect they might have in the morning. So, it is morning and a high tide that will be falling until about 1 pm. If I ground on the way out, I will be there a long time. No one around to help. I am going to sit still until the rising tide, take no chances, and rest. I probably will just go to a nearby bay then. One I can leave on any tide. The trades are also acting up. Forecasts for a ways south of here are for 30-40 knots. I may just sit and wait.

I just had a digital camera problem you may know something about. The Canon Power Shot A300 that I bought in Hawaii is acting up starting with the last memory chip upload. All the pictures looked like watercolors that were dipped in water while still wet, just an unreadable smear. I have just tested with my
spare Compact Flash Card with the same results. Any ideas? Is it time for a new camera?

Denny


3.31.05
Capt Koo,

I am now rested up and will try an update before heading out for Cape Capricorn or Great Keppel Island.

Bundaberg was a nice place, though I got stuck there longer than I planned. Cruising time. It is a charming town. The home of Bundaberg rum and much of the Queensland sugar industry. I stayed at Port Bundaberg Marina, about 10 miles out of town and rented a beater car. All is located on the Burnett river, navigable
for about 10 miles. In the center of town about 40 yachts are moored for and aft to buoys in the stream. The town of 40,000 good shopping and lots of engineering shops, so most things can be made but usually much later and at higher prices than expected. Sadly, no sai min.

I did a haulout for a week so we now have a slick bottom and prop. There was one thru hull needing a leak fixed and we torque all the keel bolts as the boat is getting close to 20 years old. They were all tight but one. The yard sent a slender little guy down under the engine to do the aft 5 bolts. What a fun job. I also got an insurance survey done to keep Loyds happy for another 3 years. The marine holds  240 boats making for nice socializing. I even met up with a boat that was next to me in Seattle for a bit, 12 years ago. They have been in the Pacific ever since.

For all that it is wonderful to be underway again. Yesterday I did 66 miles downwind and am now behind the Great Barrier Reef near Gladstone in a shallow creek called Pancake Creek. The trip was dead down wind in 20- 25 knots and lumpy. The seas are not impressed with the reef as a breakwater. We had rain
last night and a break in the trades. They are now at 15 knots and the sun is up. Aloha, Denny


3.8.05
G'day, Had a nice sailing day up coast. Anchored for the night behind Noosa Head, 20 miles N of Mooloolaba. Pretty rolly. I plan to enter the Great Sandy Strait for adventure in the afternoon Wednesday on the way to Bundaberg. The coastal mountains N of here look like they have snow patches. It's sand!

Really nice to be underway again. The boat sailed pretty fast even with a fouled bottom per the GPS. The knot meter is gummed up and won't spin. The haulout is overdue. They call the entry to G Sandy Strait Bar "The Blender". Should be facinating.

Love, Denny BMC

2.21.05
Hi,

Well after arriving back in Aussie I goofed around longer than planned using up a lot of the time I planned to spend sailing down to Sydney, hanging out there and sailing back. I am hauling out in Bundaberg early in March, so with a current running down the coast at 2-3 knots and northerly wind about half the time until April , it seemed a pain to face a 550 mile beat back to Scarborough. I crewed on Ken Roth's Transpac 49 with a couple of other guys instead and flew back after 5 days in Sydney.

The trip down was pretty uneventful except for one very exciting afternoon when the wind piped up to 50 from the SE and stayed there. We were only 20 miles past a place called Trial Bay and ran back there in building seas, fast. It was lovely (they use the word a lot here) getting the hook down and quieting down.
In the morning the wind was back in the north and light the rest of the was to Sydney heads. See the attached pic as proof I actually got out of Scarborough. Sydney is a hell of a city. I saw a lot of it, including Bondi Beach to check out female body parts covered and not.

It has been 84 degrees peak most days since I got back. This life is hell.

Love, Denny

12.20.04
Love, Denny

Have a Merry Xmas yourself. I am at Wink's place at Vail and have been skiing hard for a couple of weeks. I leave here Wednesday for Seattle to catch up on friends and be a great Dad and G'pa over the holidays. I get back to the boat near Brisbane on 1/5. I am getting a bit homesick already.

Can't remember how much I have reported about Aussie already. The weather in S Queensland is great. The people are nice in a homey way. Ladies tend toward chubby. The energy level in cities feels a lot like LA with a different accent. When I get back I will be eager to move south and wait for the hurricane season
to give up before heading north to the Barrier reef in April. I expect I will leave Darwin for SE Asia in June/July. I haven't started looking for crew in case you are interested.

I am taking a day off skiing today to attempt to update the web site. I brought a bunch of Fiji, New Cal and Aussie pics with me. If I screw it up, expect a large, panic, email.

Love, Denny



September 2004

This is an update:

Mark Hubbard flew out of Nandi Fiji to the money earning world late in June as planned. He will be in Hawaii making coin then travelling to Michigan to hunt and visit family. He was great crew and I will miss his help and active nature that pushed me to enjoy a lot of diving I might have missed. An old and close pal Bob Railton planned to join me early in August at Nadi Fiji for a couple of months on the way to Australia, so I spent a month around Fiji without crew, but often in company with other yachts. Leaving the posh moorings at Musket Cove we visited the sugar town of Latoka and found nice folks with good shopping. The dingy landing facilities were poor and the officials required patience training but I plan to return when clearing out of the country.

I have wanted to visit the old Colonial period capital of Fiji on the island of Ovalau since missing it my last visit 23 years ago. The town, Levuka, has a reputation much like the American wild west and is reported to be well preserved but quieter since the capital moved ti Suva late in the 1800s. This trip involved travelling about 2/3 the distance around the big island, Viti Levu, behind barrier reefs. The way was challenging travelling alone as a number of the reef markers were missing. I sure would not have wanted to try it when here 23 years ago without the help of GPS (satellite Navigation aids). We stopped at two night anchorages of the many available. There were no towns along the way. The few villages were all very small. This side of Viti Levu has a few mountain ranges and a lot of natural beauty. We had no contact with local Fijians other than the occassional wave from fishermen in small skiffs. Ovalau is a high, roundish island that appears lightly populated except for the area close to the town, Levuka. It had very few roads, surprizing as it was a trading center since the early 1800s. The place was a great visit. The people, seeming to be about equal numbers of Indians and Fijians were very welcoming, probably due to the small amount of tourism here. I spent some time with a retired bus driver from Victoria BC who came here 4 years ago, bought a piecseekersnd a ways out of town on the sea and built a nice small house and native Bure to sleep in during the hot season for a total investment of about $40k US. He has married a very attractive Fijian lady. Not bad, solitude seakers!

We returned to Port Denerau near Nadi Town via the same route around the top of Viti Levu after stops at a couple of nice island anchorages on the Koro Sea. Denerau has pretty good yacht services and I was able to replace the sun awning and get repair work done to two sails that had suffered on the passage from Hawaii to Palmyra Island. After a few days of boat tinkering and visiting with other yachts , Railton's face was welcome. We loaded his gear aboard and headed north, through the reefs, to the top of Viti Levu, enjoying a small fuel system panic along the way that we were able to fix handily. We had a nice day sail across Bligh Waters, named for Capt William Bligh who successfully crossed this body in open boat while being chased by cannibals after the Bounty mutiny. The trip was much easier for us. We put in at Yandua Island for a few days, a lovely spot. While there we were invited to the Fijian village where we spent most of a day joining a feast and ceremony initiating a young man into manhood  as a part of the village. The peak of the ceremony involved the fellow being shaved by his uncle with great solemnity.

Back to Bligh Waters we had a bouncy and long day sail in poor visibility and rain to the most northerly island of the Yasawa group where we gratefully got the anchor down before dark on a blustery night. This was Bob's first lumpy sail. He did very well. The Yasawa Group is a string of lovely islands with light population, sandy beaches and nice anchorages. The weather gods did not treat us with much sun which caused us to spend only 5 nights in 5 anchorages in the group. There was still some fine snorkeling and a bit of cave exploring. We spent a day powering through another series of reef channels in the rain to reach Latoka town to begin to prepare to leave Fiji. The ship's shotgun, checked with customs when we entered Fiji, had been misplaced. It was found at Savu Savu and transferred to us at Latoka after an immense amount of government song and dance. I think we might still be there but for the forceful efforts of a Fijian Chief (the police kind) who really went to bat for us. Latoka was not a loss at all. We had some good meals and loaded up on fresh vegetables at the great public market. Bob had been suffering with a sore back and was able to arrange for a good massage from a Fijian woman who advertised and met us at the Hotel Latoka. She took Bob to another hotel where the massage was performed and other services were offered. Bob's back improved. He says the "other services" were not difficult to decline. Shopping and honor complete we checked out of Fiji and headed to sea. Next stop New Caledonia.

More later, Denny

Love to all, Denny

7.16.2004
Capt Koo, I am on the move around the top of Viti Levu in company with two other boats. We are doing short days (less than 20 mile days) and enjoying the scenery. I plan to stop on Ovalau Island and check out the old colonial capital at Levuka. Then it is a reach (I hope) to Taveui and the great Somo Somo Strait
diving. Nope, no ladies yet with potential.

That site I mentioned was a map site, provided by Microsoft,. It had great zooming detail, even here, and let the viewer do full screen, or shift in any compass direction. Pretty slick, particularly for folks who are geographic literacy deprived. When I am somewhere with internet access I will dig it out
and let you know. I may have picked it up on the winlink.com site. Just interesting and no big deal.

I got an email from Dickie saying he may be ready to run away for a bit. It would be fun to have him around for a while, probably best in Fiji as air travel gets expensive to New Caledonia. Next crew is old work pal Bob Railton who will be with me a couple of months starting August 18. Six boats tonight in this very out of the way anchorage, two American, one Spanish, one Canadian, two from New Zealand.

Love to all, Denny

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