Thursday, June 28, 2012

Across The Coral Sea

     Twister departed Port Vila, Vanuatu around 1430 local time on Friday June 15th. The Great Circle distance to Cairns is 1291 nautical miles, but with the normal zig-zagging (on this pasage, the wind was often directly astern from the direction I wanted to sail (which was directly west), so I was sometimes forced to sail 10-15 degrees off course as it's hard to sail directly downwind with the sails I have) associated with sailing as well as having to dodge a few obstacles (ie reefs), the total distance sailed was around 1350 nm. It was one of the most mellow passages I've had, weatherwise. I became reacquainted with the whisker pole which I use for poling out the jib when sailing downwind in light wind (it reduces the slatting that results from swell combined with light wind and I think also presents the jib at a better angle for downwind sailing). Though the conditions were great, it was still a tiring passage because there were many obstacles--both stationary (reefs--Now I know why they call it the Coral Sea) and moving (shipping). I saw more ships on this passage than any other. I was expecting to see some as I approached the Great Barrier Reef, but I saw several hundreds of miles from land.
Midway between Vanuatu and the Queensland coast, I had a blind passenger two nights in a row. In fact I also saw more birdlife on this passage than on any other. I guess that has to do with all the reefs and associated islets in the Coral Sea.
Blind Passenger (ID anyone?)

     Around 300 miles from Cairns I was becalmed for most of one day. Just as the wind totally died, a pod of dolphins approached. Maybe they were hoping to surf Twister's bow wave. In that case, they were disappointed. They were able to entertain themselves nonetheless, jumping and cavorting in the smallish swells coming from several directions. I grabbed my mask and snorkel and joined them for a few minutes (wish I had thought to grab my camera). The water is an amazing deep blue in the open ocean so the dolphins really stood out. Unfortunately at that time, my brain decided to remind me about something I had read about deadly box jellyfish around the Great Barrier Reef. I was hundreds of miles from The Great Barrier Reef, but other reefs were nearby. So basically after a few minutes in the water, I freaked out and jumped back on Twister. What a weirdo, thought the dolphins.
     On the morning of day 12, I arrived at The Great Barrier Reef and sailed through Grafton Passage and the past the last obstacles before Cairns. I dropped the sails and motored up through the dredged channel into Cairns Harbor and tied up at Marlin Marina to await the Australian authorities. The check-in was relatively quick and efficient, though the quarantine/biosecurity inspector earned the $330 fee (most expensive country to check into so far)  I had to pay for the clearance, looking in every nook and cranny on Twister (apparently termites are a big concern for them, and Twister has a lot of wood in the interior).
     So now on my second day in Aussie, Twister remains tied up at the marina while I continue looking for a dinghy.
     Oh, yesterday was a bit of a reunion. I ran into several sailors I had met along the way--most notably, Jessie whom I met hundreds of miles from land in the eastern Pacific when I passed him and his captain some  jugs of water in May of last year. He now lives in Cairns and captains one of the many dive boats that go out to the Great Barrier Reef.


  1. Hey Lars,
    I have been behind with your blog but now I am caught up. Thanks a lot for your blogs. I enjoy your stories and picts. Sorry to hear about your guitar and dingy. Nice that your friends got you a new guitar! Did you hear that FDA approved Arena's Lorcaserin (now named Belviq).
    Take care,
    Andy K

  2. I think your blind passenger may have been a Brown Noddy.