Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Friday, 15 September 2017

Watch "The Horror of the NightWatch" on YouTube

Here, rather belatedly, is my picture story drawn on the Atlantic crossing in response to a challenge by Rebecca
  https://youtu.be/5N8mNvclOaE
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Thursday, 14 September 2017

Wonderful outrigger canoes

In Erromango i was delighted with the large number of beautifully made outrigger canoes. Children came to welcome us when we anchored but there was no pestering or any request for gifts.  Every household had a canoe and they were in constant use, out fishing with lines, or laying out seine nets.

Canoes are made from rhe large white-trunked trees seen throughout the forested hillsides. They are soft wood easily worked, and these days the slot is cut with a chainsaw before traditional adzes are used.. i was pleased to find that the outriggers are supported with grown "knees" using plants with an appropriately angled root.   The canoes are generally painted to preserve them, but we saw lovely new ones in fresh wood. Paint is something people would appreciate as a gift here..

Sunday, 10 September 2017

New Year Island & the long blue sea-time of the soul.

We finally crossed the Gulf of Carpentaria and rounded Cape Wessel, that long low finger of aboriginal land pointing north like a knife. The wind had dropped to a steady 18-20 knots and we flew the Parasailor until supper time, hauling us along steadily at a great pace as we gazed at the sandy shores and low cliffs topped by the tall tower of the lighthouse. I'd contemplated flying the "kite" during the clear moonlit nights, but it's just as well we didn't as it blew up to 30+knots and it takes at least three to get it down safely.

We've now had a couple of days across the Arafura Sea with the wind forcing us south into the wide bay until it eventually went east and we gybed out towards New Year Island. It's quite entertaining to be sailing through a landscape of dates, some more memorable than others. Back in the Torres Straits someone even swapped the names of Thursday and Friday Islands so that they would run in sequence with the previous two days of the week.

I have just read "Any Human Heart" by William Boyd in 24 hours. Quite gripping and, on a different intellectual level, a bit akin to "The One Hundred Year Old Man who climbed out of a Window" in its parade of famous people that the central character meets though his life. The very personal insight into one man's hopes, loves, sexuality, mistakes, loneliness and death was rather voyeuristic, but left me feeling very bound up in it. I have a sad feeling that if my life comes down to no more than a series of journal entries, then I should strive to make them as interesting as possible. Carpe diem. When occasionally penned, my private journal rarely dares to be as candid as his. But then it is not intended to sell as a novel. Rare attempts at exploring my feelings on paper leave me aware that I have sown a mine field which an unexpected reader would detonate. This blog is about as candid as I get, normally.

More to the point this reinforces my knowledge that what counts in life is not the journal entries, which provide for later revival of lost memories, but the vibrancy of family and friendships and how one contributes to them. So I apologise, to all who care for my company, for vanishing to sea for two years, and am intensely grateful to everyone who has been able come to share the long blue sea-time of the soul aboard Tin Tin.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Across the Arafura Sea

We entered the reef strewn waters of the Torres Straits at night, rounding Eastern Cay in big following seas, and then welcoming the flatter water in the shelter of the Great Barrier Reef. I wasn't sure what level of shipping we would encounter, but in the event there were relatively few, and we sailed just outside the channel to keep clear.

As dawn broke we could see many islets around us, and passed Stephens Islet and wondered whether one of our seafaring relatives had been here before us. About midday Toby caught a large Wahoo on the line, and I decided to anchor at nearby Layoak islet for lunch, where we found a sandy bit through a gap in the coral. Calculating our remains 75 miles I decided to stay there till sunset, so that we would arrive in Thursday Island at dawn.
Mark and Toby swam ashore, but I thought better of entering the water with my bleeding leg wounds in case I attracted sharks. In the last weeks two mosquito bites and two knocks to my shins have gone septic and horrible.....not something that has happened before on the trip.

Ashore Toby found a packet of oat & raisin biscuit washed up which said "Uncle Toby" and so the island has been renamed in his honour! The bird life was interesting, with a hundred frigate birds motionless above the islet in the gale, whilst at sea level a similar number of noddys flocked low searching for food. Mark flew his drone and was attacked by a white bellied sea eagle, getting some spectacular video of the bird. I watched the pair of Eagles fishing, and being mobbed by a cheeky frigate bird trying to steal some food.

We had a moonlit night sail and arrived at dawn as planned, sailing between Tuesday and Wednesday islands, and through a convoluted channel to reach Thursday. Here we anchored in strong wind and tide to await the officials and clear in. This all was very straightforward, but in anticipation of our fruit and veg being taken, suggested that Toby put a big pot of vegetables on to boil.

Once our quarantine flag was down we motored over to a more sheltered spot off Horn Island, and from there we caught a ferry back to TI. The town had a few shops and cafes, a new and high quality local arts and crafts exhibition centre, and a rather drab hotel overlooking the bay. Once we had replenished the fruit and veg stock, and had a few beers at the hotel we caught the last ferry back to the boat at 6pm. We were surprised to see a man sitting in a dinghy tied to Tin Tin and it turned out that he's a single handed sailor with a dodgy outboard motor. When it stopped he was lucky to float past us and grab on before being washed out to sea. He didn't have any oars...... and after two hours waiting was very grateful for a lift back to his boat.

The following day we had a morning excursion to TI and enjoyed the exhibition of art, where I bought a print depicting the winds of the Torres Strait and a CD of local music by Seaman Dan. Then a quick dash to catch the 11:00 ferry before we set off towards Gove and Darwin. Looking around we saw such a diversity of bird life with Australian pelican, ibis, herons, darters, cormorants, plovers, terns in profusion. As we motored out I saw a long light brown body curve through the water and thought of a seal, but then realised it must be a dugong. Toby spotted another a few minutes later.

The tides run fiercely here between the islands and we made 11.5 knots out into the shallow aquamarine Arafura Sea. I set course for Gove, assuming that the strong trades would keep our speed up, but the wind was too light to get to Gove at a sensible time and the following day I decided to alter course direct for Darwin as I can't afford any further days of delay. There are repairs and maintenance to be done before we head off on the 6000 mile trip to South Africa.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Meeting the Locals in PNG

We had a busy couple of days at the Royal Papua Yacht Club, getting the mainsail repaired and trying to source parts to repair the spinnaker pole, and to order new nylon bearings for the swivelling mast track, downloading tide tables, charts etc

We met Daniel from France, who has been single handing his OVNI36, Goyave, for the last eleven years, and Joao from Portugal who has been cruising for seven years focussing on finding the best surfing. Our social life included an invitation for drinks by long term houseboat resident and sailor, Brian Hall, where we met his neighbour Jeannetta Douglas and a visiting friend, Alyssa. Lots of interesting conversation about PNG; Alyssa's chocolate business sourcing the best flavoured types of plant; Jeanetta's history with her husband establishing a local airline of 30 small planes; Brian's work starting in PNG as District Officer in 1957. He showed us a fascinating movie made on location in 1955 which he said was a pretty accurate portrayal of his life and work there. Justin was awake for the beginning and end of the film!

Our Customs clearance was delayed, by non-appearance of officials on Friday, but Andrew arrived apologetic on Saturday morning, and we were free to set off at about 15:00 to motor to a little island, Morombasa, before leaving at my planned time of midnight. To our surprise, once out of the shelter, the wind was blowing Force 9 (40-50 knots) and we could hardly make headway under engine.

Eventually dropped anchor off a sheltered sandy beach, and Toby swam ashore for a "ciggie". He was welcomed by local residents throwing a birthday party for a sixteen year old girl, roasting a pig in an Umu, over hot rocks. Toby was then taken off in their high speed skiff to the mainland stilt village and shown round, and then brought back with a nice red snapper for supper. Such friendly people!

At 23:00 we raised anchor and, setting a triple reefed Genoa, headed through Basilisk Passage out of the reef into a turbulent sea.

Next stop Thursday Island, Australia in two days. Farewell to the wonderful, friendly Pacific islands we have explored. I hope I can return one day!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Breaking Bad!

It's lousy weather. Grey, rainy, strong winds, steep seas and the current against us makes them even steeper. The curious thing about ocean currents is that there are well established streams that should help to shove you along in the right direction, but which in our experience set in the opposite direction. So the South Equatorial Current which is meant to sweep westwards and up the Gulf of Papua seems to be in reverse.

We caught a nice tuna today, and as it is my day on chef duty I produced a Harissa and sesame coated seared Ahé served with a sun dried tomato, onion and cannelloni bean salad, enlivened by a second salad of thinly sliced cabbage, dressed with sesame oil and cashew nuts sprinkled with cayenne pepper.

For supper I cooked Banana Lime Fish, and marinated the tuna in lime juice, garlic, grated ginger and chilli with chopped bananas. After two hours in the fridge it was quickly pan fried before sealing it in a tin foil package to steam in the oven. (I would have wrapped it in banana leaves and placed these on a hot stone oven, or Umu, if we'd been ashore.) This was accompanied by orange and white sweet potato slices with chopped onions baked in coconut milk. It seemed to get a thumbs up from the crew, and Mark said it was the best tuna he'd tasted, which was nice.

Just before supper we aimed to put up the spinnaker pole to windward in anticipation of a midnight downwind run towards Port Moresby. Unfortunately as we raised the pole the end suddenly snapped off, and shot through the mainsail, leaving a foot long tear. To prevent the rip spreading we quickly rolled the main down to a third reef. Now I hope I can get a spare Harken part flown up to Thursday island , or more likely, Darwin. The sail repair we will try to effect with needle and thread and a bit of spare sailcloth, until we can find a sailmaker.
On investigation the part that snapped had been badly bent at some point, although we can't recall any incident that could have done that. Perhaps it was damaged when we bought TinTin. It was lucky that it happened when it did and not when under full load under sail in a gale, and that no injuries resulted.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Fish and Ships

When Justin took over the watch from Toby and me at 03:00 this morning he was suddenly thrust into the busiest shipping channel we had seen since Panama, with seven ships closing on us from north and soup through a narrow reef channel that provides a short cut between Australia and Japan. We called the 280 foot long Yasa E Mehmet to make sure they were aware of us, because with our speed varying from 7 to 9 knots in the gusts, our closest point of approach was often less than a tenth of a mile. In the event they passed just under a mile ahead, but their lights could be seen either side of our bow, and I stood by with Justin to change course if it all got too close.

This morning we have been watching boobies snatching flying fish on the wing. They hover to windward pad of Tin Tin and when we send a flush of fish spurting out of the water they swoop down as a trio flying at the same height as the fish, skimming the waves, hoping to catch one before it folds its wings and dives back in. It was wildly exciting to see such flying skills and the chase inches above the water as they followed the contours of big breaking seas.

The boobies show great perseverance in trying to land on the wildly gyrating mast at nightfall, very rarely managing a brief foothold before sliding off. However at midday we had a more successful visit from a Noddy, with its dark plumage and white coot-like patch on its forehead, about the size of a small dove. It perched on the rail, preening itself unperturbed by us all trying to take its photo. The last time we had a bird sit on the rail was in Colombia during the night of 55 knot winds, whence it was eventually washed off by a big wave which also took our Danbuoy and life belt. Fortunately Emily stayed secured to the boat.