31 December 2013

French Pass

We made French Pass, between d'Urville Island and the South Island today. Winds yesterday stopped Us getting through so we anchored in a small bay In a place called Croiselles Harbour about 20 miles from Nelson. Today we are sailing across the top of the Marlborough sounds and then heading south to Lyttleton. Pleasant sailing so far, wildlife count: 1 seal.

29 December 2013


Updated news for anyone following: the tracking link has stopped working, it appears to be a satellite phone problem, I have the phone company checking it out. Anyway, we are in Nelson at the top of the South Island of NZ at the moment, waiting for a tide and weather window to head to Lyttleton. That appears to be about midday tomorrow, which will get us to Lyttelton early on the 2nd January. So I won't be making any New Years Eve parties, except for maybe one on board.
Internet access appears to be a bit up and down, so I will hold off posting any photos until I get to Christchurch.
I have an NZ phone number in case anyone wants to call  -- +64221840918, carrier is 2 degrees which seems to be the one compatible with my phone.

18 December 2013

All set

All set for departure on Thursday morning with the high tide. We will probably reach Nelson just after Xmas. Probably in Lyttleton around the 30th of December.

16 December 2013

Lord Howe Island

We made it to Lord Howe Island after 4 days sailing from Newcastle. seas were rough, with the swell mostly around 3m or thereabouts. The island is lovely as always and we've spent the last week or so relaxing, and enjoying the scenery. The weather has kept us here as it has been mostly blowing from the south east for the week but we're looking for a change on Thursday.  Internet access is available only at the museum and is very limited so I will hold off posting photos until we reach New Zealand.

01 December 2013

I'm starting to document the things that I've done to Chiara Stella in all of the years I've had her.  Here are some photos of the newest work, and I'll list the additions and changes as I go.

This is the stern pushpit rail to which I've added a frame above the pushpit itself.  On the frame is a solar panel (200W) and an antenna for the AIS unit.  Between the frame and the pushpit is hanging a towed generator (100W) which generates electricity by having a tow line and impeller towing behind the boat while sailing.  Also at the stern is the box containing the gas bottles (Chiara Stella originally came with a kero stove) and the outboard for the dinghy.

That's a closer view of the panel and the towed generator.

The boom bag and lazyjacks got added a few years ago.  I resisted getting one but for short handed cruising they are essential.

The original bow rail was mild steel and quite rusty, despite my constant attention with chipping and paint.  So recently I had this stainless steel one fitted.

The original Profurl furler on the genoa was quite badly worn and the gears were jamming, so I had to replace it.  The original model wasn't serviceable any more.

I also added a furler to the babystay for the staysail.  Originally there were 3 hank up sails for the staysail -- a regular staysail, a staysail genoa and a storm jib.  That was just too much to carry for a sail that doesn't get used very often so I replaced them with a single furled sail.

New anchor windlass -- a Muir model to replace the original French built model which I had no identification for.

2 x 80W solar panels, of the flat/flexible variety, got added to the doghouse roof.  They put out quite a bit of charge, I've seen the current from them peaking at 9A through the controller.

The original Shipmate VHF radio wasn't working and I didn't have an AIS on board, so I replaced it with the combination of an Icom DSC VHF and AIS transponder.  They work quite well together, but be aware that the AIS units from Icom won't work with an external GPS despite what they say in their product literature and web site -- they require reprogramming to do so.

I made the mistake of fitting a Raymarine autopilot.  Although it works well some of the time, in light winds it fails to hold a course and completely gives up trying to do so when the off course alarm goes off.  I believe this to be a software fault, however after a year or more of going back and forth to the Raymarine dealer there was no resolution until I was finally told that since a year had passed and the unit was out of warranty no further correspondence would be entered into.  I would recommend Coursemaster as an alternative.

Also pictured is the NMEA interface for the Tacktick instruments.  These work quite well despite the fact that Tacktick is now owned by Raymarine.

13 October 2013


I now have my AIS unit wired up (first time worked for all of the soldering joints too, except for one minor issue).  That means that boats around me can see me, and I can see them which is a big plus.  It's just working off a small portable antenna at the moment, the main antenna for it gets wired up when I get lifted the week after next.  It seems to be working OK though, I can see ships up to 8nm out to sea at the moment, not bad for in here at the marina.

It also means that various agencies now have me on tracking whenever my AIS comes into range of a base station, or whenever I update my position.

Link to my ship data:


A link to track where I am:


01 September 2013

The newly cleaned out engine bay, waiting for the new engine to go in.


Here at last on the start of my long voyage, in Newcastle where I will stay until summer and get some work done on Chiara Stella.

The day sail up was fantastic from a sailing point of view -- good winds in the early morning, which died out in the late morning but by about 2pm we had moderate south easterlies which enabled us to put up the big asymmetric spinnaker I had made earlier in the year, which really cut through the miles.

It's an enormous sail, but the sailing angles we can use it at are fairly limited.  Fortunately for us the wind stuck to those angles for most of the afternoon.  We pulled it down about a half hour before sunset so we could go on the easier to handle sails for the trip into Newcastle, and in fact we motored for the last 20 minutes or so.

Pete and Taryn came along for the trip, and although Taryn was seasick for most of the trip I think everyone mostly had a good time.

Chiara Stella is going up on the slip at Newcastle to get work done tomorrow morning, and I will head back to Sydney before coming back here next week.

10 August 2013

It's a chart!  Or a map, at least (if you want to learn the difference, click here).

I've sent that out to a few people so some of you have already seen it.  The red line is the intended progress of year 1, the blue line are probable or possible side trips.  I'm considering adding a blue line to to via Rapa Iti but it's not an official port of entry for French Polynesia so I think I'm required to check in at Raivavae first.

I will probably detour to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands before heading for Suwarrow where I plan to chill out for a couple of weeks.  I am thinking I might skip Niue and head to Pago Pago instead to reprovision.

The best laid plans of mice and men, of course ...

02 August 2013

Where is Chiara Stella?

For the next two weeks Chiara Stella is over at Balmain getting a new one of these installed:

After that she will be back in Lavender Bay for a week or two.

On the 31st August we are moving to Sydney Wharf Marina in Pyrmont Bay (right out the front of the casino / Google offices) while I wait for a weather window for Newcastle.  Hopefully that will be no longer than a week because that's all I've booked at the marina, but can be extended if required.

Then we're sailing to Newcastle.  Pete Winning and potentially one other crew are joining us, and Taryn if she can make it (e.g. it's on a weekend).  From when we get there (1st September or shortly after) we will be at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club marina.  Chiara Stella will need to be hauled out to get her usual antifoul and zinc replacement so I'll head back to Sydney for that and go up to Newcastle again when she's ready.

Newcastle marina will be home until early December.

29 July 2013

It's starting to look like it's really happening.  My flat looks much bigger now with most things either gone or packed into boxes.

The few things remaining:  Air Conditioner sold on eBay but the purchaser never paid or showed up to collect it so it's re-listed.  Wardrobe is still here and is now empty, I have someone interested but not sure when it's going to be moved.  One bar stool and one telephone table still need a home, and the hanging robe may or may not have a home (freecycle if it doesn't).  The futon doesn't have a home yet either but I'm currently sleeping on it having gotten rid of my bed, so that will have to be last to go (probably freecycle as I won't have time to eBay).

Garb has either been packed into boxes or sent away to new homes, except for 2 pieces (one needing repair and one which will have to be hung on board).  There is still a box of engine parts which will have to be eBayed along with the old engine, and also a box of paints, some of which will come with me for touch-ups and some will have to go to the council for disposal.

Then the last few things - computer desk has a new home, my rabbi's chair will be sent west to family, and the futon.

The initial crew that volunteered for the Southern Ocean leg have pulled out but the reserve crew are keen and are booked in.  Retired yachtmaster and his wife, both a bit older than I am but experienced.  Unfortunately the reserve crew don't speak French so I'm going to have to do some scratching my head and pointing at phrasebooks once I get to Raivavae.

Look out Pacific Ocean, I'm heading your way.

07 July 2013

Test post from navionics

Just checking to see if I can post pictures from navionics here directly

26 June 2013


I wonder if I can use this to get internet access around the Pacific?

Satellites to bring 'fast, cheap' internet to 'under-connected'

02 June 2013

Nothing to report

Although people posting on sailing blogs in the northern hemisphere are reporting their season's adventures recently, I have nothing to report.  Winter has been cool although reasonably dry until recently, today was too wet and cold and windy to even leave the house let alone get on the harbour.

Last weekend I did a quick run out to drop a few things off and pick a few things up, but that's about it.

Oh, and I bought some flags.

22 April 2013

Action on the home front

Well, it's been a long while since my last blog post, mostly because I have been too busy to post rather than not having anything to post about.

Sydney's long summer continued well into March this year which allowed me to get quite a lot of work done.  I'll start with the electricals and work down from there.

On the doghouse roof there are now two new flat solar panels.  Rob from Keppelena helped me fit them when there was finally a day which was neither too wet nor too windy.  I needed the flat ones with the aluminium backs up there because occasionally I need to walk on them -- when packing away or setting the mainsail.  2 x chinese made 80W flat panels sourced off eBay for around $300 each, plus a cheap 15A MPPT controller also from eBay for around $45 and I now have more power coming into the batteries than I know what to do with (this is in addition to the existing 75W panel and 100W wind generator).

The wiring for the 100W towed generator is also complete now so I have that in line with the 100W wind generator for a bit of a boost under sail.  The towed generator is going to give me the best performance while the boat is making way -- which it will do a lot of downwind, and of course the wind generator won't perform at its best downwind so they complement each other nicely.

This gives me enough power to run the small fridge pretty much constantly while at anchor or on the mooring, but to give me enough power to really run everything I've decided to fit some more solar panels on the aft rail (there's a stainless steel construction above the pushpit around the back of the boat, already mounting the radar and wind generator).  I figure I'll need to get some steelwork done up there, so I figure I'll need to find somewhere to do that.

The other piece of steelwork that needs doing before the major trip is the pulpit around the front of the boat.  Years of repairs, bashing, cutting, filling and painting have now meant that it's about half steel and half bog.  So the entire thing needs to be cut off and replaced, preferably in stainless (and the welding to the foredeck will be half of that job.

So the decision has been made -- Chiara Stella and I are heading to Newcastle in early September to take up a berth at the Newcastle CYC.  There are 3 steel manufacturers within a stone's throw of the marina there and they all seem to be willing to do the work and eager to give me quotes once I get up there.  So I'll be looking for crew for a short jaunt north around late August or early September, as soon as winter dies away and we get a good weather window basically.

I'll stay in Newcastle for the 3 months before heading off around the Pacific so I've started packing up the flat in order to move out a few months earlier than I'd planned.  Everything that I need to keep (including a stack of boat spares) is being packed into boxes to ship to my brother's house in WA before I head off, and that's a laborious enough job.  I will need to store things for a while and so I'm cataloguing everything that goes into storage.  Most of the work now is de-cluttering, and with the assistance of eBay and Freecycle I've managed to get rid of an amazing amount of stuff.  The last remaining big items are the bed (probably a chuck-out, actually, the mattress is basically shot), my one large wardrobe, a bookshelf, and the futon sofa.  I haven't decided what to do with each, most are too big to be shipped economically and since everything that gets sent will need to be sent again (possibly to Singapore or elsewhere in SE Asia) I don't want to keep anything that I can't ship a second time -- so that probably means the furniture items have to go.

Back to the boat.  Other things that have happened include:
  • Acquiring a stack of jerry jugs for carrying spare fuel/water, courtesy of Andy and Jane who have headed off on their own adventures around the Mediterranean.
  • Spliced up new mooring lines.  My splicing skills are improving.
  • Chucked out a heap of junk that had been festering in the forward cabin.
  • Took my new tent on board (Mutha Hubba, from Paddy Pallins, should be ideal for camping on tropical islands) and repacked the locker that stores this stuff.
  • Fitted a new windvane to the top of the mast.  The legs had fallen off the old one.
Finally, a whole lot of tidying up got done both at the flat and the boat.  The flat looks a whole lot bigger now!

11 March 2013


See, I'd never known how much easier it was to do all those wiring tasks with a cat on board.  She helps out in so many ways, attacking the ends of any loose wires, sitting on the tools so I don't lose them, chewing on the plug ends so they fit together easier, etc, etc.

Next time I'll have to remember that.

02 March 2013

Busy week

It's been kind of a busy week so I'll start at the beginning.

I took Chiara Stella over to the engine mechanic on Tuesday to see what can be done about the engine after the overheat.  Well there wasn't any significant damage that can be pointed to, but there are major signs of wear in a number of places.  The thermostat housing is about to corrode away and there's major corrosion damage on the exhaust elbow.  The cylinder head is showing signs of wear and there are other signs of corrosion and wear around the gearbox coupling, timing belt area, etc.  The raw water pump had been leaking for a bit (as I suspected) and there is also major corrosion around the area (ditto) as well.

So the verdict is that, to ensure a safe and relatively trouble free Pacific journey, it's time to consider a new engine -- now rather than when I need it 2000nm from land.

Anyway, the mechanic said that the engine will last a bit longer but not a long while longer, so it's probably better done now rather than later.

In other news, I bought some new solar panels for the coachhouse roof and I started installing the wiring for them today.  It was too wet and windy to get the panels actually onto the roof so that's a job for another day.  I have a new MPPT regulator ready to fit so we'll see how that goes.  Robert came down from Byron Bay and helped me fit a new towed generator, although I need to fit new wiring for that too (and today was also to wet and windy for that job).

In the "everything old is new again" department, I inherited a water maker with Chiara Stella when I bought her.  On opening the box I found that the pump was basically broken into several pieces, and Pur, the makers, were no longer in business so I can't get a replacement or any parts.

On the up side, however, Katadyn had bought the business of Pur and although they didn't make that model watermaker any more, they made a very similar manual one (mine is a Pur Powersurvivor 35, theirs is a Katadyn Survivor 35).  Rumour had it that although one is electric and one is manual, they use the same pump.  So I found an "as new" Katadyn 35 on eBay, bought it, and lo and behold the pumps are more or less interchangeable.

I have to make a couple of modifications to the Katadyn pump to fit it to the Pur motor, the main thing being to find 4 x 5/8" threaded rods of 155mm length to make the attachment, as well as retrofitting a hose junction.  The hose I can do myself but cutting 316 grade stainless steel rod without any power tools is a major undertaking.  Fortunately I have a friend nearby who has offered use of an angle grinder to cut the rod.

I did think today to go out and get a 12V power supply so I could test the motor part of the Pur unit, fortunately that appears to work without any problems.  So now all I have to do is to cut the threaded rods, bolt the new pump onto the old motor and hey presto I have a water maker for a fraction of the cost buying a new one would have been.

The other minor jobs today included fitting new bolts to the toilet pump -- the ones from the old pump wouldn't fit and the only ones I had spare of the right length were quite narrow gauge so wouldn't have held it in place for long, so I ordered some new ones on line and they fitted well and should hold it for ages.

I still have to get up on the roof and fit the panels, as well as wiring the towed generator into the other regulator, but it was too wet and windy outside to do either of those jobs so they will be for another day.

11 February 2013

Port Hacking

I have always wanted to check out Port Hacking, so I did that last weekend.  I'm glad I did, it's a very pretty place but I won't be going back.

The entrance to Port Hacking is about 18nm south of Sydney.  That makes it an easy day sail, in fact with about 15 knots of northerly behind us we made it about an hour ahead of schedule.  Unfortunately that meant an hour ahead of the tide that I would have liked to use to get through the channel, more on that later.

Once you pass the heads you need to immediately check the depth of tide.  Although the channel is well marked, having a working depth sounder and a recent set of charts is vital.  Also, once you enter the channel, if you decide that the depth ahead is insufficient for you to proceed, there isn't anywhere to hover, anchor or otherwise get away from the fairly consistent traffic going through the channel.

We entered the channel with 0.4m of tide, and according to my reading of the chart that should have been sufficient.  However the lowest depth that I measured in the channel (both with the sounder and getting my keel stuck on it) was 1.3m above MLWS, and there were a few areas in the channel that we managed to avoid by eye that were clearly lower depth than that.  In fact, one of the channel markers was sitting high and dry at that depth of tide, clearly any keeled vessel attempting to pass close to that marker even at mid-tide would have difficulty.  So in retrospect we probably needed 0.6m of tide to be safe.  Fortunately we were only halted where we touched bottom briefly for 15 minutes or so waiting for the tide to rise a bit further, and the bottom is all sand so there was no damage done other than a bit of abrasive cleaning.

The north side of Port Hacking is what could loosely be described as "civilisation", and that's where most of the local vessels are moored, berthed, or are trailed.  Most of the local vessels appear to be either trailer sailors, shoal draft vessels or power boats.  I saw probably only 2-3 cruising (sailing) yachts of any reasonable size in the time I was there, compared to many hundreds of small power boats and a dozen or more smaller sailboats.  Gunnamatta Bay, which is the first inlet on the north of Port Hacking after you enter the heads, has a marina, the RMYC Port Hacking which has a useful amount of information on their web site (http://www.rmycph.com.au/cruising/) and also the Cronulla town centre.

The south side of Port Hacking is national park, and there are several inlets going into that park.  Most are quite shoal, but the one we chose to explore was South West Arm which has good depths throughout (after we passed the channel).

The anchorages in South West Arm are quite pleasant and we had no problems finding good depth for anchoring.  There are visitors moorings at the far end of South West Arm but we found them all to be in use, some having up to 6 large power boats rafted up on each one.  The anchorage there was also quite crowded with little swing room, although a number of yachts were anchored with stern lines going to shore to allow them to fit more snugly.

Not wanting to spend the entire night listening to on-board parties, we found a quiet anchoring spot a bit further away from the shore than the rest of the boats.

The bottom end of South West Arm is a 4 knot, no-wash zone however there appears to be no enforcement of this and little attention paid to it by the hordes of power boaters, water-skiers and jetboats that speed through the area.  Their activity ceased at sunset but started again pretty much on the dot at 6am, and there were several ski boats that passed very close by Chiara Stella at anchor shortly after daybreak.  Jetboats are banned in Sydney Harbour, this is clearly where they all congregate.

9am the next day saw a high tide so we high-tailed it out of there.  Dodging ski boats, jetboats and fishing boats (several moored or drifting in the middle of the quite narrow channel) aplenty, we headed back out to sea to catch the southerly back to Sydney -- we were quickly picked up by the forecast 25 knots somewhat ahead of schedule and made Sydney Harbour in fairly rapid time.

Overall, Port Hacking is a very pretty piece of water with some nice countryside nearby.  We spotted a few beaches and grassy areas on the southern side where it would be possible to dinghy ashore for a picnic, however it's quite noisy once the power boats start their engines.

10 February 2013

Nutbars in Ferries

I just returned from a brief weekend visit to Port Hacking, south of Sydney.

More about that later, but today the ferry drivers in Sydney were clearly on something.  One in a rivercat chucking doughnuts in the water in front of me, just inside south head, as I was trying to furl the genoa.  WTF?

Another one stopped his ferry as we were both trying to pass Kirribilli Point, and drifted down on to me in an attempt to force me onto the rocks.  Yeah, I know you get right of way even over a sailboat, but seriously if I hadn't had my engine on and idling there would have been an incident and it would have been entirely your fault.

In the words of the immortal Bazza: I hope your chooks turn into emus and kick your dunny door down.

06 January 2013

The Plan, part 3

At this stage, part 3 of the plan is just a set of islands to visit and a loose timetable.

Plan part 2 ends in Raivavae, although I have some thoughts of carrying on towards Pitcairn Island instead.  I plan to be in Raivavae around late March or early April (2014), hoping to miss the end of the cyclone season (or staying south until it passes).

From there, the sailing plan extends through French Polynesia, mostly only stopping at Tahiti, Bora Bora and maybe 1 or 2 other islands.  From there to the Cook Islands where in particular I hope to stop at Suwarrow, indirectly named after the Russian general Алекса́ндр Суво́ров, famous in the early part of the Napoleonic Wars.

After that I basically have a choice of either or all of Samoa, Tonga, and/or Fiji.  I'm a bit tempted by both Samoa and American Samoa (Pago Pago), because I know that if I need parts from the USA they can be shipped cheaply to Pago Pago, but otherwise it's not the best destination.  Samoa itself seems like it might be a nice place for a stop.

The eventual destination for the cruising season (by November, basically, when the cyclone season starts) is Port Vila in Vanuatu.  Reports are that there is a cyclone safe land-locked anchorage there where I can hole up Chiara Stella for the cyclone season, although I will have to do some more investigation first.

I plan to put some more firm plans around this in the coming months, including specific stops, and approximate dates.  Dates will always be approximate because a sailing boat goes where the wind wants it to go, and not anywhere else -- if I have to stay longer in an anchorage or a port or miss a stop to take refuge from contrary winds then that is what I will do.

After that, part 4 will take me to SE Asia.

05 January 2013

The continued saga of the water pump

After twice rifling through my spare parts box and failing to find anything that would fit, I found a small opaque bag at the back of the box and lo and behold it contained a new water pump and gasket.

Unfortunately I had nothing (solvents required) to remove the old gasket with, so I patched it as best as I could, and put the new water pump in place with the replacement gasket over the top.  I will have to revisit that and change the gasket properly but for the time being -- no leaks.

The engine works well, no sign of overheating and no coolant leaking either from the heat exchanger or via the block.  I think there is a small leak around one of the coolant hoses so I will get them all replaced at the next service.  No compression issues so the head + head gasket are both good.  I am a bit suspicious about the timing belt, I think the last time I had it replaced was when I had the engine overhauled about 4 years ago so it's due for a replacement (fortunately I have a spare one of those).

So it's all good.  I didn't go as far as I had intended over the break, electing to stay between here and Broken Bay instead until I get a proper service done, but I did get some sailing done.

Next job will be to get together with Jeff and some of the Nemesis crew and get some photos done with the new sail wardrobe.  Since I had the last set of photos done (and nice they were too, thanks to Hayden and Tony), I have had a complete sail wardrobe change, with new headsail and staysail as well as a new cruising spinnaker.  I'd like to get some shots out on the water with all of that up.