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October 21 - 2253 S - 16326 E

Baraka sailed the first several hours inside the New Caledonia lagoon, then slipped through Dumbea Pass into open ocean. For a long time we could see the lights of Noumea reflected from clouds in the otherwise dark sky. No moon to keep us company this trip. That makes such a difference in the long dark hours.

We turned off the motor just outside Noumea harbor, and are lunging along very well in lively seas, windvane steering. 18-25 knots just aft the beam, we are making 7 knots, good for us. It is colder now, long pants, hats and fleeces, and I am considering socks. We are enjoying audio books. They help the passage time pass, and the on-watch person can give the off-watch longer sack time. I got 4 1/2 hours deep sleep last night, unusual on the first day out, especially in rowdy seas, when I usually rack up a sleep deficit. The freezer has baguettes and pain au chocolat and croissants, legacy of Noumea. You can take it with you!

October 22 - 2313 S - 16139 E

Still sailing. The winds dropped a bit to a more comfortable 15-18 knots, slowing us down to 6 knots. Seas are more comfortable. The winds are moving astern, so we put out the pole on the jib, and preventer on the main.

We don't keep a fixed watch schedule. It seems to work well for us to wake the other person when the watchman is tired. Dave and I are giving each other 6 hours off right now in these easy conditions, and getting good rest.

We are trying to eat down the things Australia quarantine will take: dried fruits, popcorn, honey, and fresh meats, fruits, veg, anything with egg in it. We were careful not to over-provision in Noumea, but I have some non-perishable foods from New Zealand I'm hoping they will let us keep. I have several special baskets from Vanuatu I may have to give up. No one knows ahead just what they will take, as some things are inspected and returned. No use fretting.

October 23 - 2338 S - 15852 E

Rolling along, we barely touch the sails. The watchman checks the wind direction and course, and tweaks the windvane. Winds are holding steady, 18-22 knots, abaft the beam, just about perfect. Looks like these conditions will carry us almost to the coastline. We are halfway there, less than 400 miles to go.

Haven't seen anyone since the first day out. Not even birds out here, in the middle of the Coral Sea. Yesterday it was steady enough to make scrambled eggs, and a dinner of chicken and pasta.

10 am, the boat skewed to windward, sails luffing. The windvane, a mechanical device that steers the boat based on wind direction, had stopped working. A control line had chafed through. The autopilot (our third crew) is did the job of steering while Dave fished the line back through and fixed it.

All is well.

October 24 - 2406 S - 15654 E

250 miles to go. Winds, as predicted are much lighter - 10-12 knots dead astern. Dave and I set the spinnaker this morning and we are sailing wing on wing with it in fairly flat seas. Later today or tomorrow we expect to be motoring, to make a Monday landfall. All is well.

Spinnaker pulls us to Oz.

Our American flag is tired from the Pacific crossing.

October 26 - Landfall Australia

Good winds all the way! Australia finally appeared as a flat smudge on the horizon. We motored the last few miles up the river to Bundaberg Marina, where we are anchored in the quarantine area, yellow Q flag up, awaiting clearance. There are a dozen boats in front of us.

Nice to be safely here, passage over. The boat is quiet again, barely moving after 6 days of lunging. We are looking forward to hot showers, a sit-down meal and a full night of sleep.

October 27 - G'day Mates

After a 4-hour wait in the queue, we were cleared into Australia by efficient and friendly immigration, customs and quarantine officials. They looked at shells, baskets, carvings and hiking boots, but didn't make us extricate our bicycles from beneath the floorboards. They took our frozen meats, a few vegetables, and some odds and ends. Australia is probably the most regulated country on the planet. We appreciated the easy check-in. When we were done, the marina gave us a slip, first 2 nights free.

The Port-to-Port rally welcomed us with a pie and mash dinner (only A$5 each, a bargain). Most of the rally boats arrived yesterday with us, hustling to get in before gale winds coming today, now whistling in our rigging. We are very happy to be at a dock rather than still at sea.

We are meeting some old friends here, and making new ones. Dave and I signed up for 9 nights moorage here at Bundaberg Port Marina. Somehow after a passage it is wonderful to park and rest a bit. On the first day ashore after a passage the ground seems to be heaving, until we get our land legs back.

Today the rally organizers brought fresh produce to sell, local fruits and vegetables, and I did the passage laundry. Dave set up the transformer (which converts Australia's 220 AC to our 110), and rewired our AC system for shore power (to switch from the generator he has to change the grounding). He washed the crusty passage salt off the decks, and is now working on the freezer, which has a faulty thermostat. For the first time since last February we will turn off our freezer. I'm glad he is Project Man.

Next week we will work our way to Scarborough near Brisbane, where we plan to park Baraka for 4 months. It will be fun to coastal cruise, something we have not done since Mexico in 2007.

Baraka sports The Flags of All Nations.

The Port to Port rally organizers feed us nightly and organize events and tours, keeping us busy.

October 28 - Bundaberg town

We caught the free marina shuttle to town to find an ATM, buy a Aussie SIM card for our cell phone, and shop at a hardware store and grocery. Chores done, our reward was sharing a large grilled lamb sandwich at Bundalicious.

Each evening the rally organizers host a dinner in an event tent. Tonight was barbecue night. We are happy to eat meals off the boat, the first time we have done much of that since leaving New Zealand last May.

Many cruising friends are enroute from New Caledonia to New Zealand. After 3 days pounding into headwinds, they are now anchored at Norfolk Island, waiting for the wind direction to shift enough for them to make Opua. This makes us grateful our passage was so easy.

November 3 - Moving On

After a week packed with rally activities and socializing, the boats are now dispersing, most headed to their chosen cyclone hole. Ours will be Scarborough, where we have arranged to haul out Baraka for a few months while we visit home and land travel. There are two ways to get to Scarborough - threading our way for several days through Great Sandy Strait inside Fraser Island, or head out and around Fraser on an overnight passage to Mooloolaba. We have a good weather window for the latter option, so are leaning toward that, though neither of us is excited about another overnighter. By the end of the week there are thunderstorms, so we will hunker down in Mooloolaba until we have a good window for the final days run to Scarborough.

Here in Bundaberg, we unpacked and assembled our bicycles, first time since San Diego, and biked to the Burnett Heads lighthouse, a nice flat ride to reawaken some dormant leg muscles.

November 4 - Night Passage to Mooloolaba

Up early, we untied from Bundaberg Port and headed once more out to sea. We beat a little north to clear Breaksea Spit at the north end of Fraser, then when the wind died motored south through a moonlit night in flat seas and light following breeze. Dave got the AIS working, and messages pop up showing ships off in the distance on the chart plotter, nothing close. We are inside the shipping lanes.

November 6 - Mooloolaba

Baraka is tied up at the Wharf Marina, Mooloolaba. We got the bikes out and rolled along the beachfront path to a shopping mall where we visited Coles, a gigantic grocery, and loaded up on fresh foods. Today we walked to the other marina, to a great fish and chips place at the fish wharf, out to the end of the breakwater to check on the surf, and along a very nice boardwalk trail. Mooloolaba is well set up for walkers and bikers, and it was fun to watch the surfers and swimmers on the popular beach. We met Don Pedro for a drink, and made plans to head south in a few days to Scarborough.

Dave and I also visited the local volunteer Coast Guard. In Australia, you can radio your departure and expected arrival times to volunteer stations. They track you, and send out a search party if you are 2 hours late checking in.

November 11 - Scarborough Marina

Several boats welcomed us to Scarborough with a barbecue. One of the delights of Australia are the many parks lining the ocean, complete with covered picnic tables and free gas barbecues. Ellen of Rasa Manis drove us to the nearby Woolies to get t-bone steaks. Other boats brought sashimi, stuffed jalapenos, baked potatoes and dessert. A feast! It is hard to imagine Vanuatu in this environment - so different. In fact, it is hard to imagine Vanuatu on the same planet, a mere 1000 miles but a half dozen centuries away.

We are mothballing the boat, stowing everything below and cleaning. We are also eyeing the huge and heavy pile of woodcarvings, baskets and shells we will try to take home. What's the baggage allowance?

Every day we roll down the scenic beach path on our bicycles. They had been stored in pieces under the floor since San Diego, but are now getting lots of use. They are folding Montague mountain bikes, full size, 21 speed, giving us tremendous range. We can (awkwardly) carry groceries, so they save us renting a car or catching buses, and also are a fun way to explore.

We fly home in just a week. Seattle reports sound gloomy, cold rain and hail. We will swap southern hemisphere summer for northern winter, trading our flipflop wardrobe for parkas. Hard to visualize.

November 16 - Packing up

We bought a cheap rollaround suitcase at the Kmart in Redcliff, and are trying to shoehorn in all the heavy, odd-shaped woodcarvings from Fiji and Vanuatu. We removed all the gear from the decks and filled the shower stall. The dinghy is deflated and lashed down. One quiet morning before the winds came up, we got the jib and staysail down, folded, and stowed below. Baraka is looking a bit naked. Dave has disconnected all electronics (he says 48 connections) for lightning. I am going through lockers and pitching food that is either opened or won't survive the heat. The haulout yard is full of ants, so we bought ant traps and poisons. Every day there are lots of projects, but the list is manageable, and we had time to bike to a colorful Sunday market nearby.

November 23 - Homecoming

Our one-way rental car took us and heavy luggage (shells, woodcarvings, baskets) to Formule 1 near Brisbane Airport, then into the Airport the next morning. We flew non-stop to LAX, then through customs and immigration, then a shorter flight to SeaTac. Dave and I each watched 5 movies on the long flight, yow.

We received a warm welcome home from Dad and Isabel, Joel, Rolfe, Nancy, Denny and Olivia. What a thrill to be met by family after being so far away.

Malinda found us a perfect place to stay, handy to all family in Edmonds, with a sweet landlady. We quickly rejoined Harbor Square athletic club (to train for NZ South Island trekking). Malinda took me to Walmart and Costco for the full culture immersion.

I will continue to do updates to the website, but sporadically, until we are moving again.

January 2 - Moving On

We have enjoyed a wonderful round of visits with family and friends. Now it is time to pack up and head on, this time to New Zealand, where we will pick up our little Mitsubishi ("Caraka") from friends Sal and Al, and head for the south island for 2 months of hiking and exploring.

We have had a fantastic 2009, filled with new adventures and good friendships, and count our many blessings. May 2010 bring the same to you!

March 25 - Home Sweet Home

We are back home aboard Baraka, afloat in a slip at Scarborough Marina, Queensland. We flew back from New Zealand March 20, burdened with over 100 pounds of luggage, picked up a rental car at Brisbane airport, and arrived at Scarborough Beach Resort, where we stayed for 4 nights while Baraka was in the yard. After scraping, sanding, grinding, zincs, fresh green bootstripe and blue bottom paint (Dave and I looked like Smurfs), we plopped back into the water yesterday, for the first time in 4 months. Dave has been busy reviving all the mothballed boat systems. So far so good, everything is coming back to life: engine, refrigeration, power, water, propane.

The boat is in good shape, no damage or problems beyond a few cans that exploded in the heat.

It feels great to be home!

April 6 - Project Time

The days rush by as we work on boat projects, taking advantage of our dock time. Dave reseated the leaking forward hatch, a big job that required fiberglass work, and rebuilding and refinishing the teak frame. Today he installed fridge parts and had our engine-driven refrigeration re-charged. I have been sewing, repairing sails and awnings, sewing more covers and the flags for the countries we will visit this year. The foot control pedal for my sewing machine stopped working. Handyman Dave took it apart, found it had imploded into tiny pieces, rebuilt it, and I am sewing again! I am amazed how often he fixes things that look hopeless.

We are signed up for the Indonesia Rally, leaving Darwin July 24.

Shopping is an easy 20-minute bicycle ride away. Each time I go, I test how much I can carry home in my backpack and on the handlebars.

April 19 - ready to move on

After a month here at Scarborough Marina, the boat is in good shape and we feel ready to start moving. On Wednesday we will head a little north to Mooloolaba. This day sail will give us a chance to check out of lot of the boat systems and rigging, and remember how to sail! It's been a long time. Cyclone season ends May 1, so we can move north again. We have just 2 months to make Darwin, a couple thousand miles away. This is a big country.

A week ago Dave accidentally tossed a sandal overboard, and failed to hear the splash. Yesterday, walking the dock, I noticed it floating by. Lucky!

Australia fails to delight us the same way New Zealand does. Prices are expensive, especially boat parts and marina fees. Reading about the Queensland Coast heading north, we understand we are not likely to swim, and need to be careful about many dangers afloat and ashore. There are an amazing variety of things here that can kill you! Last week friends went hiking, and came back with leeches sucking away inside their shoes. Yikes.

April 23 - Mooloolaba

The weather looked great today, so we finally broke free from Scarborough and headed north, out of shallow Moreton Bay to Mooloolaba. We mostly motored in light winds, but buried the bow in steep seas coming out of the bay! It felt good to check out all the boat systems and find that we are in good shape.

We arrived mid-afternoon at Mooloolaba, coming in the breakwater and winding upriver to the Wharf where we'd arranged moorage. Mooloolaba is a charming resort town, and a handy place to provision the boat for our passage north up the Queensland coast.

April 29 - Barbara says G'Day to Elaine

We are at Mooloolaba, having enjoyed a week at the Wharf Marina, catching up with some cruising friends, and having a delightful visit from Dave and Barbara, longtime friends from back home. Guests are doubly welcome, bringing needed boat parts and mail from home, as well as being great company. We explored a little bit of Queensland, going out to a steak dinner and yesterday to the colorful market at Eumundi, where jet-lagged Barbara was enticed into her first tattoo.

Tomorrow we will leave at 10pm, sailing overnight to catch the tide across Wide Bay Bar, heading north to the Great Sandy Strait that opens into Hervey Bay. We will spend a couple days working our way up Frasier Island.

May 1 - Tin Can Bay

We had a terrific overnight sail north from Mooloolaba to the Wide Bay Bar entrance to the Great Sandy Strait. Beam winds, 15-20 knots, about perfect except for the rolling swell on our quarter, but can't complain. We had stopped at the Volunteer Marine Rescue office in Mooloolaba for the current coordinates and advice on the bar crossing. With breaking rollers on both sides of us, and shallow depths, we were happy to make it across with no problems.

We then sailed a little south to Tin Can Bay, where we are bobbing quietly at anchor. Little wavelets chuckle along the hull - water music! This is our first anchorage since New Caledonia, many moons ago. Feels great!

May 5 - Kingfisher Resort, Fraser Island

We stayed at Tin Can long enough to watch the tourists hand feed the resident dolphins, who know to come for brekkie every morning at 8am. Accompanied by Cardea, we motor-sailed north through shoal channels to Garry's anchorage. Exploring ashore, we found signs warning of crocodiles and dingoes, but it was the man-eating mosquitoes that drove us back to Baraka. We sailed on to attractive Kingfisher Resort, a fairly posh vacation spot, where we anchored, hiked the beach to find dingo tracks (carrying big sticks), and took welcome showers.

Fraser is the world's largest sand island, carefully protected. Going north from here, we will be inside the Great Barrier Reef, all of it zoned as marine park. Our next jump will be an overnight sail to Lady Musgrave Island, an offshore coral atoll with a small sand island.

May 7 - Great Keppel and Night Visitor

The culprit innocently sleeping.

We had planned to visit Lady Musgrave Island, an offshore coral atoll, but a "possible storm" was threatened, so we stayed a second night anchored off Kingfisher. The next morning we pulled up the hook and headed north, skipping Lady Musgrave, opting instead for an overnight sail in good conditions to Great Keppel. When I came on watch Dave was taking pictures of a night visitor. A brown booby decided to hitchhike on our stern rail. After initially wobbling around to get a good footing, our booby tucked his head under a wing and slept. A few hours later I was working some lines in the cockpit, when I felt gobs of something warm smack my hand. Ewww! How can one turkey-sized bird pack a gallon of brown guano? Dave spent his morning watch swabbing out the cockpit and says "no more birds".

May 10 - Ugly passage to Port Clinton

We spent 2 nights at Great Keppel, anchored securely in the lee. A nice day hike took us to pretty Butterfish Bay, but when we hiked over the dunes toward Wreck Bay, nasty little velcro burrs accumulated inside shoes and shorts, turning us back.

The second night seas wrapped around the island as the wind built into the low 30s, turning our quiet anchorage into a miserably rolling one. At first light we were up, sailing north to Port Clinton into black thunderclouds that poured rain all around but never touched us. All day the seas built, steeply in the shallow waters inside the barrier reef, until looking back, we could see vertical waves breaking over our heads. We put the companionway hatchboards in, something we've only done a few times, but never got pooped. In fact, our cockpit has always stayed dry despite several years of downwind sailing.

We turned around Cape Clinton and anchored in the estuary. Our chain fed out astern as the wind and current swept us opposing directions. Finally we tied off the chain without setting the anchor. This is the only time we have ever anchored Baraka without backing down to dig the hook in, but we did not want to scrape the chain against our hull. Weird feeling. We are tired from our day's ordeal, and will stop here 2 nights. Dave and I agreed that this is not the fun part of cruising.

May 11 - Townshend Island

We rested a day in Port Clinton, as squalls rolled overhead our snug anchorage. Although Dave would object to "rested". He used the time to pull up and troubleshoot a faulty bilge pump, an icky job. Today we motored north in calmer seas dodging squalls, and tucked around the north end of Townshend Island in Supply Bay. Slow swells wrap around the cape, making Baraka a rocking cradle, but not uncomfortably so.

May 13 - NE Percy to Digby Island

A quiet night bobbing at NE Percy. Today we sail on a nice beam reach to little Digby Island, then tomorrow an all-day trip to Mackay Harbor. It will have been 2 weeks without a store, and we are just now running low on fresh foods. But it has been very nice to go 2 weeks without spending money! Helps bring the budget back under control.

Dave found a bolt missing in the Profurl drum. He jury-rigged a replacement until we can order the right part.

May 15 - Mackay Harbor

When we arrived at Digby, we found Airstream at anchor. Bill and Janet are also heading north to join the Indonesia Rally. Early yesterday morning we pulled anchor and sailed under spinnaker to Mackay, in teasing winds that looked strong enough to get us there in daylight. But a counter-current bogged us down, and we resorted to iron wind. We threaded our way through over 40 freighters at anchor, waiting to load coal for China. This may the the secret of Australia's apparent wealth.

Mackay is a large modern marina, with laundry and great showers, most welcome after 2 weeks at anchor. Town and groceries are a bus or cab ride away. We will park here a couple nights and enjoy shoreside amenities.

May 19 - Thomas Island

It is always nice to be in a marina when we haven't been for awhile, and equally gratifying to escape back to pleasant anchorages. We had a delightful night anchored off Brampton, then a great sail today to Thomas Island, where we are tucked in a pretty bay. These are the Cumberland Islands, the southern part of the Whitsundays, which are internationally known as a premier cruising area for charter boats. So far the anchorages are empty, but that will change over the next few days. The swell wraps around the island, so Dave put out the flopper-stopper, a hinged stainless device, hung on our pole over the side. As we roll it closes as it falls, and opens as the pole pulls it up, dampening our roll. We still move around a fair amount, but it takes the misery out.

Dave says it is nearly 800 miles from here to Cape York, at the Torres Strait. We will keep moving, and nibble the miles away.

May 21 - Whitsunday Island

We caught up with Harmonie and Storyteller here at Whitsunday, and saw several other Indonesia Rally boats here. We are all working toward Darwin, and will bump into each other along the way. Today we climbed to the highest point on Whitsunday, a healthy 1400 foot climb, for spectacular views. One snake scurried away, about 4 feet long, black on top with a bright yellow/green underbelly and a swelling at the jaw. Is this the common death adder? We don't think so, but made good use of our walking sticks to announce our presence. A variety of songbirds carolled us along the way, including what may have been a kookabarra laughing.

We got word from Charisma that Airwego was holed and sunk on a reef in Samoa. Mike and Cindy were picked up by Charisma, then put up by a local resort. A lot of boat gear was salvaged, but the boat is a loss. Each time we hear of something like this, we know it could happen to us. We try to get the details and lessons learned.

May 25 - Whitsunday Island

Stopped a night at Butterfly Bay on Hook Island where we caught up with Airstream and snorkeled a little in the cool waters. Lots of nice soft corals and some new (to us) reef fishes. We sailed on to Gloucester Island to transit the shallow passage at low tide with 3 feet under the keel. Didn't go ashore. Our book warns to take a flashlight and watch where you step - common death adders here! The snake we saw on our Whitsunday hike may have been a coastal taipan - very deadly. Our book says no worries, 14 of the more than 100 snake species here in Oz are non-poisonous.

Yesterday we had a 50-mile spinnaker run in flat seas and light winds to Upstart Head, where we enjoyed a calm night in the lee. Today we run to Cape Bowling Green, and tomorrow to Townsville or Magnetic Island, the latter named by Cook when he thought his compass went wacky. These are easy days, and we are making miles toward Cape York and the Torres Strait. Dave is watching a low forming south of us that may give us headwinds and make Cape Bowling Green a lee shore anchorage. We'll keep an eye on that.

May 27 - Nelly Bay Marina, Magnetic Island

We anchored at Cape Bowling Green behind the tip, far from a lee shore in a north breeze, in shallow water. Dave had installed a nav instrument display at our berth. All night we kept one eye open, but the winds never clocked above 10 knots and the boat gently hobby-horsed into small wind waves from the north, across 35 miles of open fetch. Yesterday we motored north toward Townsville under threatening skies. Squally wet winds built to the high 20s, but didn't last long. We called Townsville Marina, but they don't dredge their channel. We could only enter at high tide, and we were arriving at low. We went instead into tiny Nelly Bay Marina for a quiet night, and will take the ferry to Townsville.

May 31 - Orpheus to Dunk, anchor nightmare

Our overnight stop at Nelly Bay turned into 4 nights, as we enjoyed Magnetic Island and the tiny marina and waited for weather. We got the bicycles out and biked to Picnic Bay and up the west side of the island. The next day we did the 6 km hike up and over a ridge with nice views, to Arcadia. Nice stop! Yesterday we pried ourselves from the dock, and had a great day sail to Orpheus, anchoring in Pioneer Bay. We congratulated ourselves on finding the nicest and calmest anchorage in Queensland, with a cockpit dinner and fine sunset. After dinner I splashed the carrot peelings overboard at dusk, and the biggest shark I have seen swam over to investigate! No swimming here.

Our idyllic anchorage turned ugly this morning, when a SW wind, not forecast, rolled into the anchorage. The shift wrapped our anchor chain on a coral head, giving short scope and soon we were bucketting up and down, or rolling beam to big waves. At 5 am we sprang to the decks and tried bringing our big anchor up. Then we realized we were wrapped on coral. I let out scope again, enough to free the loop and we got the hook up, but it was full of a massive hunk of coral. Dave poked it free but nearly went overboard with it. By dawn we were underway, heading north to Dunk Island.

June 1 - Dunk Island

Wonderful day. We went ashore with Harmonie, Storyteller and Rasa Manis to hike the 11 km circuit around the island on a very nice trail, with a loop to the highest lookout. We rewarded ourselves by signing up as day guests at the resort. This included a good lunch and use of the resort pool. Back aboard Dave found a split hose on the generator leaking antifreeze. We had been congratulating ourselves on a "day off" from boat work or passage making, but he has been heads down in the cockpit fixing the leak for a couple hours. Dave never seems discouraged by all the maintenance and repairs needed. I'm glad he has both the skills and positive attitude to keep us going.

A few days ago we sailed through the Palm Island group. Look this up in Wikipedia if you want to read the sad story. Palm Island was a prison colony for Aborigines. Crimes included being of mixed race, or pregnant with a white man's child. We were warned from stopping to visit Palm Island, due to the high crime rate.

We are just now learning some of the history of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia. Last night we watched a wonderful movie - The Rabbit Proof Fence, a true story of the Lost Generations, children removed forcibly from their families by the government as part of a plan to end their race. This continued until 1970.

Coming across the Pacific we have seen the legacy of racial problems leftover from colonial occupation. The issues are different in each island group, but nowhere quite so sad as here.

We hike around Dunk Island,,,

...with pretty views from the top.

This fine spiderweb looks like a CD hanging.

We enjoy a day off from cruising.

June 2 - Wifi in the Great Barrier Reef

Something that has gob-smacked us (antipodal term for amazed), is the availability of wifi in remote places. What a boon for cruisers! There are times at anchor or even underway when we can get google images of the next anchorage, book a marina slip, find a parts manual for broken equipment, and do email and even skype calls. Fiji, Vanuatu, NZ, and Australia all have data plans through their mobile phone carriers. We bought a little thumb-drive sized USB modem. Together with the local provider's SIM card we connect through the cell tower system to the internet, at a pretty reasonable cost. In the case here, we pre-paid A$150 for 5 gigabytes that we can use over a 5 month period. Sweet! Coverage will become increasingly sparse as we continue north into less populated regions, but it has been a real luxury to stay connected to friends and family this way.

June 3 - Cairns

We motored north from Dunk in flat seas and ducked into the sugar mill port of Mourilyan for a quiet night, then a long day of motoring to Cairns (pronounced "cans"). We edged into the river and anchored across from Marlin Marina, where we have a slip tomorrow. Cairns is a significant milestone on our trip to Darwin. We are not yet halfway (900 of the 2100 miles), but this is our last town of any size, last marina, last laundry and large grocery, and last chance to get boat services. Dave is having the autopilot fixed here - it had developed a sporadic unreliability, jumping 30 degrees when we intended 1. We also are picking up a Profurl part. Other than small things, the boat is holding together fine.

June 6 - Still Cairns

Enjoying marina comforts at Cairns. Yesterday we joined Harmonie and Storyteller for an outing - beautiful train ride to the rainforest village of Kuranda where we had lunch and Dave bought a didjeridu from Boongar, a Wakka Wakka man. Fun experience. We rode the skytrain back, an hour-long gondola ride that skimmed the rainforest canopy. We rarely get off the boat and explore this country. There's a lot to see, and it gives us a very different impression from our coastal experience.

Today we had to get serious. Dave changed engine oil and reinstalled the repaired autopilot while I made a produce and booze run, and visited a good seafood market. Cairns has been a delightful surprise - really nice town and marina. Tomorrow is laundry and grocery run, then we will be ready to embark again. Next town is Darwin, 3+ weeks away.

June 8 - Low Islets

We reluctantly waved goodbye to delightful Cairns to resume our long plod north. Dave set the alarm! for 6 am in time for our appointment at the fuel dock where we topped up diesel, including jugs. We don't have the range to motor to Darwin, but trade winds should be steady from here on. This is the last outpost of "civilization" for 3+ weeks. Feels great to have the autopilot fixed, and Dave found needed parts. Laundry done, fruit basket full, we are ready to move on.

We had a nice sail today to the Low Islets, arriving as the day party boats were leaving. We anchored next to a tiny cay with a pretty lighthouse. There are turtles and huge fish here, swimming around Baraka. Looks nice! We may stay a day to snorkel. We are debating whether to make an overnight jump to log some miles versus the comfort of day hops. Dave wants miles. Jan wants sleep. Stay tuned.

June 10 - Low Islets to Cape Bedford

Yeah! We are day-hopping north. Sleep won. We thoroughly enjoyed Low Islets. Some of the best snorkeling ever, with lovely green sea turtles, giant clams (4' across!) and huge fishes. Fun stop. Dave used the calm anchorage to swap out a leaking raw water pump. After 2 comfortable nights we got up at 6 am to run all day, wing-on-wing, to Cape Bedford, hoping to arrive by dusk. Looking good, trade winds behind are pushing us at 7+ knots.

This far north, the Great Barrier Reef begins to converge with the Queensland coast. Now we are threading our way through patches of reef. We passed Hope Islets, where Cook's Endeavor barely missed grounding. Once clear, and the soundings deep, the officers went below to sleep. That night Endeavor hit the reef that bears its name. Cook jettisoned an anchor, cannon and other gear to work free and made it ashore at today's Cooktown for repairs. For years it was thought Cook was mistaken about which reef he hit, until his cannon was discovered, confirming his accuracy.

June 13 - Lizard Island

We have enjoyed 3 nights in the protected anchorage of Lizard Island, while 25-30 knots howl overhead. This is tradewind territory, and these winds, though a little stronger than normal, are what we can expect to Cape York, a week away. From here we will day hop, long days, and probably bouncy anchorages, to Torres Strait. It's a long slog to Darwin!

Lizard has been a great respite. We hiked across the island to the interesting research center where we saw a film explaining the facility. People come from all over the world to complete their field studies for advanced degrees in reef science. We also hiked to the top of the island, 1190 feet up steep granite slabs, to Cook's Look where Cook climbed, hoping to spot an opening in the barrier reef. He was discouraged - to the east the reef is a long continuous line. Cook knew his ship could not sail to windward against the trades, and worried he might be trapped within the reef. The next day his pinnace, sent to explore, did find a gap.

This afternoon, Tom and Ellen of Rasa Manis picked us up to go snorkelling. We saw a lot of giant clams, most alive, and some empty shells. They live upwards of 50 years to become this size, some 4 feet across. We could look inside their vents to see innards! Very cool.

Some years ago, circumnavigators and friends Don and Joyce Green of Windy Thoughts spent 3 weeks here, enjoying Lizard. Joyce wrote about it in her excellent book, titled after the boat name. We have her book aboard, and it is fun to be retracing their steps north inside the reef.

June 14 - Ninian Bay

Big winds pushed us to Ninian Bay, where we tried to tuck in the shallow bay for some protection. We are anchored well offshore with 4 feet under the keel! The anchorage is bouncy but tolerable. We are alone here in the huge empty bay. Dave is tracking down a diesel leak while I repair the chafed anchor snubber.

We reefed the sails down for comfort but still made good time. Forecasts are for more of the same, 25-30 knots SE, all the way to Cape York, due to a big high centered over Victoria. It's a little hard on us and on the boat, but we are averaging 7 knots, good for us, and necessary with long stretches between decent anchorages. Days are short - only 12 hours of light, and dodging reefs and freighter traffic, we are happy to make day hops. Next week, after Torres Strait, we will have some longer 3-day passages to Darwin.

June 15 - Flinders Group

Fast daysail from Ninian to Flinders Island, to a lovely flat anchorage. Tonight we get some welcome rest. We clocked 33 knots rounding Cape Melville with only 10 feet under the keel, pegging 8-9 knots of boat speed! Now we are anchored in a quiet spot in the center of the group. 4 other boats arrived, all Europeans.

Flinders was famous for charting the Australian coast and left his name all over the place. No swimming here - we are officially in croc country from here on. Tomorrow is a long day, 60 miles to Morris Islet.

June 16 - Morris Islet

We are anchored behind Morris, a tiny sliver of an island with a single palm tree, fronds blowing straight out like a windsock. Good holding and protection from the seas, but none from the wind, howling overhead at 25-30 knots, rattling the rigging. Dave says it will start to lay down Friday.

June 18 - Shelburne Bay

Each day strong tradewinds bowl us along. Last night we anchored at Portland Roads with 8 other boats. By midnight Dave was up setting the flopper stopper to try to settle us in the miserable swells that wrapped around the corner. Today we sailed through squalls and rainbows to Shelburne Bay. A pod of tiny dolphins played in our bow wave. Rounding Cape Melville we threaded through invisible reefs and shoals, hoping the chart is truthful. The chart warns that most of Shelburne is unsurveyed for depths. Rasa Manis nudged a coral bommie on the way in. Off the main shipping channel, the navigational charts are sketchy, and the Great Barrier Reef now nudges the mainland. Tomorrow we sail a long day to Escape River, where we hope for a quiet night, with the boat resting still.

June 20 - Escape River

We were up early for the long daysail to Escape River, coming in at the end of the rising tide, no problems though a little sloppy coming over the entrance bar. Escape must be entered in daylight due to long strings of black buoys (pearl farms?) that encroach the main channel from the south side. Flat calm here, very pleasant, so far no man-eating bugs. I've lobbied for a day off to rest up and do a few boat chores before the Torres Strait and Carpenteria legs.

Dave is hard at work taking our reaching pole apart. It's innards have uncoupled and it makes a racket sailing downwind. It will be nice to have that quiet!

The plan from here is to hit Albany Passage at slack or near it at low tide, then ride a favorable current though the Strait. So we will leave probably tomorrow mid-morning riding the outgoing tide from Escape (just a knot or two), the unfavorable ebb north to Albany, then the favorable flood through the Strait.

I'd really like to visit Horn and Thursday Islands, but maybe it's not worth giving up the produce and meat I have left from Cairns. Because of the proximity to PNG, no fresh foods pass from the Torres Islands to the mainland, even though those goods were bought in Cairns! If we pass through Torres Strait without stopping until we get to Seisia, there is no issue with Customs.

Nice to be parked inside the river today - the tradewinds are howling again.

June 21 - Seisia, Red Island

Today was an ordeal - some of the toughest sailing Baraka and her crew have endured. We left Escape River early, to try to time the tides through Albany Passage and around Cape York. We clocked 30 knots of wind while still in the anchorage. At the river mouth, on a falling tide, we encountered current opposing the strong tradewinds, resulting in huge breaking seas on our nose. Waves swept down our decks and tossed us around. After 20 minutes of burying our nose, we made it across the shoal bar into deeper water, and turned north toward Albany. There we had the opposite, tradewinds at our backs against a couple knot current, with more steep breaking seas. We made it through and ran to Cape York. Turning the corner, the winds built into the 30s, gusting to 40, so we put a second reef in the main, something we have only done once before. We reached south in the lee of Cape York to Red Island, winds screaming in the rigging and knocking us hard over. Coming in the shallow entrance, we had only 5 feet under our keel. Dave found the entrance buoys and range markers, and we made it inside the tiny bay where we are safely anchored with a dozen other cruising boats. Stronger winds are forecast, so we will hunker here a few days to recuperate and wait out the blow.

Rounding Cape York is a huge milestone, and a relief. We celebrated with homemade pizza, a bottle of good wine, fresh water showers, and will sleep well tonight.

June 24 - Seisia, Croc Country

Still at Seisia, waiting for the winds to moderate. Several boats left for Darwin today. They must be getting beat up out there. Squalls roll through our protected anchorage, heeling us over. Tidal currents turn us beam to the blustery wind. The dinghy tried to self-launch off the foredeck.

Ashore luxury! We did laundry, got rid of trash, bought fresh veg, and Jan got an outdoor haircut from a woman at the campground. Wind whipped my hair as she cut it. Surprised that it looks ok.

There are 3 resident crocs here patrolling, one 20 feet long that came up the beach yesterday by the dinghies. We are plenty nervous going ashore. We beach the dinghy, then haul it up the beach to the high tide line, all the time aware that we are croc bait.

We are using this time to get ready for the passage to Darwin. This includes looking the boat over carefully. Dave found a crack in the bracket that holds the autopilot. We took it ashore to a welder and hope to have it back tomorrow.

There is a long checklist to prepare the boat for passage. Coastal cruising up inside the barrier reef meant we have been within sight of land for the past several months. Saturday we will head offshore - 3 days to the next anchorage in the Wessel Islands. Time to rig jacklines, harnesses, leeboards, and inventory the ditch bag.

June 28 - Wessel Island

We motored out of Seisia in flat calm, a stark contrast to the howling winds of the past week. In fact, 8 hours later Dave was concerned we might have to motor to Darwin, and we don't carry that range of fuel.

No worries, as they say here in the Antipodes, the wind came back. We screamed across the Gulf of Carpenteria with 25-30 knots astern, surfing down 3-meter short-interval seas for 2 days. A second reef in the main slowed the boat to a manageable 7 knots. Our windvane failed, cracking a sacrificial stainless steel tube. Dave has a spare, since the Monitor by design has this weak link that will fail before anything else. He replaced it at anchor here in the Wessels while I stood croc watch.

Wessel Island sticks up from Arnhem Land like a long feather, curving out into the Arafura Sea. Once we rounded its cape, we tucked into Two Island Bay, a protected anchorage in its lee, to rest and recoup for the next leg. It is breezy here, but the boat and crew are at rest.

June 30 - Underway to Cobourg Peninsula

Had a great night's sleep in the Wessels. Dave fixed the windvane with spare parts, and I corrected the gib furling line to a better length. We enjoyed cockpit showers and a couple solid meals. Yesterday we departed with nice winds and flat seas, which built through the day but stayed manageable. The windvane is steering, doing a good job, and we are making good time. This is a much easier overnight passage than the one to the Wessels. We will arrive at the Cobourg Peninsula tomorrow.

July 2 - Darwin!!!

The 2-day passage from the Wessels to Cobourg Peninsula was much easier. The repaired vane steered, and we made good time in near perfect conditions, so much so that I talked Dave into carrying on around Cape Don instead of stopping as we'd planned. The winds and seas kicked up around the cape, then settled down. We soon had to start the motor to work against an unfavorable current that peaked at 3 knots in Clarence Strait at 10 pm. Dave had wanted to time the tides better, but I was anxious to make Darwin before some forecasted high winds.

We motored in calm almost to Darwin's entrance, where we turned into 20 knots on the nose. Passing the town pier, we were chased away from 2 American naval vessels, one an aircraft carrier, by 2 guard boats. By 6 am we were anchored in Frances Bay.

Midmorning, Dave phoned Fisheries to arrange for a diver to come poison our through-hulls, required before we could lock into a Darwin marina. Bad news, due to high winds they might not be able to come today, or tomorrow. But no worries, since we'd been hauled out for 4 months at Scarborough, we were somehow exempt from the requirement.

We called Keith, the Tipperary Waters lockmaster, who told us to come ahead, the tides were high enough until noon to lock in to the marina. Dave started the engine while I pulled the anchor, then told me to leave it down - the engine was overheating! The alternator fan belt, which also drives the engine cooling system, had chosen that moment to shred. Dave worked to remove the outer fridge belts, then replaced the alternator belt with a spare. At 11:30 we started the engine again, and with helpful instructions from Keith, worked up the shallow channel to the tiny bathtub lock. We scooted in, pushed by tailwinds, with the engine in reverse to slow us. Keith grabbed a stern line, closed the lock door, and locked us up. Whew!

Harmonie and Storyteller caught our lines at the dock, and Baraka was finally at rest. The marina has a laundry, stand up showers, a grocery, 2 eateries, and other amenities. Along the dock are several dozen other boats, some we know, here for the Indonesia Rally.

What a huge relief to be here, after a couple months of aggressive travel in some tough conditions. Now we can settle for 3 weeks, working on a long list of boat projects, a few major ones, and prepare for the cruising season, to Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Seems like we have journeyed far just to get to the start line.

July 3 - Bliss

I told Dave this morning that in the cruising life, happiness is cessation of pain. We are both so happy to be here, safe at a dock where we can clean the boat and ourselves up with plentiful water, and not have to worry about anything, winds, weather, currents and tides, deadly critters, broken equipment and dicey anchorages. We both slept a full night for the first time in some weeks, except for the quiet night in the Wessels.

Darwin looks inviting, lots to see and do. Today I bought fresh fruits and vegetables at a market, and did laundry while Dave lightened the boat of many pounds of crusty salt and a few stinky dead fish that landed on our decks. We are switching from cruising mode back to liveaboard mode, putting away the offshore gear and setting up the bicycles, fans, windscoop. Darwin is hot! We are not far from the equator, at 12 degrees south.

July 6 - Illegal Aliens!

Yesterday I took our passports and ships papers to town to apply for our Indonesia visas. When I returned, Dave reported that 2 stern looking customs agents had come by to tell us our Australian visas had expired! Today we extracted our passports from the Indonesian Consulate and spent a few hours in Immigration clearing the matter up. It seems that the multiple entry visas we obtained last year in Vanuatu are valid, no worries, but the external system does not talk to the internal system, and the internal one says our visas expired after 90 days. The visas we were granted, as shown in our passports, are correct. Immigration says they will update their system to change our status over the next few days, and by the time we leave we should again be legal.

Yikes, not all dangers in Oz are in the wild.

Today a Sail Indonesia representative came by the marina to hand out materials and information. I found a podcast set of Bahasa Indonesia language lessons, and also downloaded didjeridu lessons for Dave. Dave has boat parts on the dock and decks, and has ordered a bank of new batteries from Darwin, and a bunch of parts from Seattle.

We are just a couple miles from downtown, an easy bike ride.

July 17 - Darwin Passage Preparations

The days fly by as we do maintenance and repairs, and money seems to be flying our of our wallets in $$$ Australia. Dave installed a new bank of batteries and had the air conditioner serviced. We are loading the boat with provisions for 3 months - next stores with western-type goods will be Singapore. This is also a time to catch up with many friends and make new ones.

Sail Indonesia rally just informed us we are approved to enter Indonesia at Kupang. This cuts several hundred miles off our route, good for us as we must be in Bali by late August. Tonight is the rally barbeque, where we will meet many more of the rally boats. Our nephew, Nate, flies in today, and will crew with us to Bali. We rarely have crew aboard, and are looking forward to having extra pairs of eyes and hands.

Baraka locks in to Tipperary Waters Marina, Darwin.

Ugly and deadly stonefish in the marina.

Friends help us celebrate Dave's birthday.

We go on the jumping crocs tour...

...a little different from the Disneyland Jungle Ride.

Click here for photos from our 2010 New Zealand tour...
or here for our Indonesian journal.

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