Monday, July 30, 2012

back in Punta Arenas, Chile

I finally landed in Punta Arenas yesterday afternoon after 3 days of traveling from Darwin (My penultimate post was prophetic:  I was not scheduled to stop in Puerto Montt, but my flight was turned around because of ice on the runway in Punta Arenas so we ended up spending a couple of hours in Puerto Montt). The RVIB (Research Vessel Ice Breaker) Nathaniel B. Palmer is an impressive looking ship. We are scheduled to set sail (no actual sails on this ship) August 1. It's been great catching up with some of the folks I got to know on AMLR 2011.
Punta Arenas in July
sunrise over The Andes

Friday, July 27, 2012

Anchorages Of SV Twister

I didn't make it into town during my long layover in Sydney, so I had a lot of time on my hands. Hence a map showing most of the anchorages of SV Twister over the last two years or so.

On My Way To Punta Arenas

I hear it's lovely this time of year.  After I get there, I'll board the Nathanial B. Palmer (Here is a site that shows the current position of the Palmer so you can see our position as well as what kind of weather we're having). I'm excited to see what The Drake Passage (the bit of ocean between South American and The Antarctic Peninsula) will dish out in the middle of winter and stoked to be working on the US AMLR (Antarctic Marine Living Resources) program again. Here are some photos from the 2011 summer cruise.  I don't think I will have internet access on the ship, but I will have email: (account won't be active until July 30-ish).
Currently sitting in Darwin Airport, waiting for the first flight which goes to Sydney. After an overnight layever, it's over to Auckland, Santiago, perhaps Puerto Mont, and finally Punta Arenas. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

mailing address

I can receive mail at:

Lars Thoresen
SV Twister - yacht in transit
Darwin Sailing Club
PO Box 117

If using a courier like fedex:

Lars Thoresen
SV Twister - yacht in transit

Darwin Sailing Club
Atkins Drive
Fannie Bay NT 0820

Twister will not depart Darwin until September 1 or so.

a few photos from Aussie

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Passage To Darwin

    Twister departed Lizard Island around 1130 local time July 09. I had spent two days and two nights there, just taking it easy, doing some snorkeling, jogging on the beach, and having some beers at the bar which is only open two (or three?) days a week (so only one of the days I was there).  Lizard Island is a national park in the middle of The Great Barrier Reef (GBR), but there is also a fancy resort (guests only at that bar), and a research station on the island. The reef was probably the best I’ve seen in a popular anchorage. The reason is marker buoys around the coral (with threats of fines for violators) which keeps the boats anchoring in sand (it’s a win-win for the boats and the reef.  Nobody likes anchoring in coral--anchors get stuck, the chain makes an awful racket when it scrapes against the coral, if you’re foolish enough to not use chain, you’ll soon be adrift, and of course there’s the damage caused to the reefs—but in some anchorages it’s difficult to find a spot without it. There were lots of giant clams (big as a person, don’t get your hands stuck), lovely variously colored coral, and beautiful anemones that looked like what velvet might look like on acid (if you were on acid, not the velvet). Not a ton of fish, though. Some chaps from Melbourne invited me for dinner on their Choy Lee 75 powerboat/trawler. A contrast to Twister. The engine room looked like one from a ship (but cleaner)—two big diesel engines, two generators, and a 10,000 amp-hour (or something ridiculous like that) battery bank. The steak they prepared was possibly the best I have ever had. They were all enthusiastic about and complimentary of my journey.  
Twister was attacked by boobies after leaving Lizard Island
      Lizard Island is ~10 miles from some popular dive sites on the outside endge of GBR. I had sort of planned to stop on the way out and have a swim, but once I got going, I didn’t want to stop. We exited (GBR) via One-and-a-half Mile Opening then enjoyed about 200 miles of open ocean. Back in to GBR through Raine Island Opening, there followed 24 hours of not much sleep with lots of reefs to dodge on the way to The Torres Strait. Fortunately conditions were mellow and as the sun rose on Thursday the 12th, we entered Adolphous Channel (leads from the shipping lane inside GBR to Torres Strait). Not surprisingly there were some cargo ships to avoid. We rounded Cape York a few hours later and entered Endeavour Strait (the southernmost of the channels that make up The Torres Strait between Cape York and Paupa New Guinea). Endeavour Strait is not one of the shipping lanes as it’s too shallow for many ships, so I didn’t have to worry about avoiding behemoth container ships. With the help of the tidal stream, we were going along at 6-7 knots with only a mild breeze. A few hours after, we were past The Torres Strait and into The Gulf Of Carpentaria and The Arafura Sea (the first is part of the second).  After 36 hours with not much sleep, I was happy to be in open water and slept for four hours straight which is maybe the second longest I’ve slept in one block on passage.  The charts show a recommended track for shipping that runs east-west from The Torres Strait to The Indian Ocean (and ships apparently do keep pretty close to this in The Arafura Sea). I had set Horny steering a course of 265 degrees to keep us south of the shipping lane. When I woke up, we were well north of where I had planned to be—actually on the other side of the shipping lane. Horny is great at steering a course relative to the wind, but if the wind changes direction, so do we. We got back to where we wanted to be and slept some more.  The ~300 miles across the Gulf Of Carpentaria was very smooth and pleasant sailing. Just as we rounded Cape Wessel (on the western end of the gulf), the wind piped up and within a few hours, it was blowing 30+ knots with 8 foot seas, and the sun disappeared behind angry rain clouds. The rough sailing and crappy weather only lasted 24 hours or so, which I spent most of cooped up inside, only poking my head out periodically to look for ships and adjust Horny. 

     I had a visit from dolphins at the beginning and end of The Arafura Sea as if they were welcoming and wishing me farewell. As the farewell committee was surfing Twister’s bow wave, I saw something I had not seen before--among the dolphins were a few large fish (not sure what kind) apparently playing along. It did not look like the dolphins were chasing them. Just as I was pondering that, a tuna jumped at least six feet into the air.

     Three times on this passage I was buzzed by Australian Customs' planes who called me on the VHF radio requesting my vessel's name, home port, previous and next port. They were kind enough to email me a photo they took of Twister from the air:

     The last 100 miles to Darwin goes through Van Diemen Gulf and the straits on either side of it (unless you want to go around, adding to the journey more than 100 miles and a long beat to windward) which are subject to strong tidal streams. Before I left Cairns, I had neglected to look up the times for these tides and the resulting streams, but I could tell I was at the wrong end of the cycle when I was sailing in place at the entrance to Dundas Strait (well, I was going about 1 knot). After several hours, the direction of the stream changed and I zipped along at 6 knots. At the other end of Van Diemen Gulf, I entered Clarence Strait and glided along at 6-7 knots in a mild breeze. Unfortunately the wind died completely and I had to start the engine as not to lose steerage and be at the mercy of the tidal stream (reefs on both sides of the channel). I ended up motoring the last 25 or so miles to Darwin as I couldn’t stand to spend another night drifting within sight of Darwin. Twister is anchored in Fannie Bay, the most popular anchorage in Darwin is a large bay with what must be a hundred or more boats.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Made it to Darwin. Wonder if they sell cold beer here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sailing Along The Great Barrier Reef

     Twister departed Cairns around 0600 local time July 4th as the one-day-short-of-full moon was setting over the mountains in the west. I was a bit apprehensive as the forecast was for 25-33 knots of wind for the next several days. At least it was blowing from the right direction (south south-east). Initially, it turned out to be on the lower end of that range and conditions were lovely with only 2-3 feet of chop/swell. I had felt anxious to get underway to reach Darwin in time to catch my flight to Punta Arenas and worried about all the reefs in my way and the strong wind warning. Then as I was cruising along very comfortably at 5-6 knots, I suddenly felt happy and fortunate—sailing in lovely conditions along The Great Barrier Reef, in a month I’ll be on an ice-breaker off The Antarctic Peninsula, and after that, sailing across The Indian Ocean. 
I met some nice folks in Cairns—fellow sailors, one of whom had done a lot of solo-sailing before the days of GPS and met Bernard Moitessier in Tahiti back in the day. My neighbors (on both sides) in the marina were also friendly and helpful.
The afternoon of the first day, I stopped at Low Islets (ca 30 miles north of Cairns) and tied onto one of the public moorings. There were several charter boats and their passengers there. Several big fish (no idea what they were, one type looked a little like giant flying fish that were swimming upside down) came up to greet Twister as we arrived. They were obviously used to being fed. The gobbled up the carrot, potato, and onion peels I tossed overboard as I was fixing dinner.
I departed Low Islets while it was still dark (I had made sure that my immediate path northward was clear the night before). After a couple of hours I decided to try sailing under bare poles (that is taking down all the sails). To my surprise, Twister was doing 4-5 knots very comfortably. That was the first time I’ve tried that technique. I’m not sure it would go well in the open ocean with bigger seas (with Horny steering that is; it would probably work hand steering).
 I continued running under bare poles until I reached Hope Islands where I tied onto another public mooring (there are many around the Great Barrier Reef, so boats don’t have to use their anchors and potentially damage the coral).
The next morning, I departed after sunrise as there were a few small reefs nearby to my north, to dodge. Most of the way to Cape Bedford we continued under bare poles. The wind had picked up a bit and Twister was doing 5-6 knots. Interestingly, Horny would only keep the course if set directly downwind (and fortunately that happened to be where I wanted to go. More than ten degrees off and she’d broach to—turn her side to the wind and seas).
We arrived Cape Bedford in the afternoon. The cape provides good shelter from the seas (to the southeast), but two hills and a saddle funnel the winds into the anchorage causing some decent gusts. Good holding in ~10 feet depth, mud bottom, lots of chain and two anchors were a recipe for a good night’s sleep.
Saturday the 7th:  It was a chore pulling up the chain and two anchors against the strong wind. I had to put the engine in gear and pull in the slack as Twister tacked back and forth toward the anchors. As the course to Lizard Island was not directly downwind, I had to use a small patch of jib for Horny to maintain a course. Exposing more of the beam to the seas resulted in a wet cockpit. Usually I’d retreat down to the cabin, but I rediscovered my foul weather gear (such as it is) and stayed in the cockpit the whole way, giving Horny a hand now and then when a wave pushed Twister’s stern over. We arrived Lizard Island around 1430 and anchored in 20 feet, sand bottom. The island provides lee from the seas, but generates some bullets of wind. The authorities have wisely put a series of buoys around the coral, so boats can easily anchor in the sandy parts of the anchorage and avoid damaging the coral and getting their anchors stuck. Just a passing glance shows that the coral is in much better shape than you’d see at a popular anchorage elsewhere in the South Pacific. I plan to stay put here a couple of days, hopefully doing some snorkeling at the nearby outer reefs. Lizard Island and the surrounding waters are some sort of park/marine reserve, but there is also a fancy resort on the island.
From here, I’ll head outside the Great Barrier Reef, through one-and-a-half mile opening, head north northwest for ca 200 miles then back in through Raine Island Opening. From there it’s another 100 miles (through coral strewn waters) to Cape York and The Torres Strait. I think I will sail straight through that bit, rather than stopping to anchor at night. Once through The Torres Strait, it’s 7-800 miles of clear sailing to Darwin. I will probably not stop between here and Darwin (and I don’t think there will be cell phone coverage), so I’ll check in when I get there, around July 22.

Monday, July 2, 2012

North Along The Great Barrier Reef (GBR)

I'm planning to depart Cairns Wednesday (the 4th of July, happy independence day, USA). The forecast is for 20 to 30 knots (fortunately from the southeast) for the next 6 days, so there will be plenty of wind. There are basically two options--sail straight through to The Torres Strait outside the GBR, or sail during the day and anchor at night inside the reef (too many obstacles to sleep while sailing inside the GBR). I'm planning to stay inside the reef and hopefully stop and snorkel a few places along the way. With 20-30 knot winds, it will be a bit bumpy outside the reef. Hopefully it will be smoother inside.

I have purchased an airline ticket for Punta Arenas, Chile departing Darwin on July 27, so I've got to hustle. Once through The Torres Strait, I will likely sail straight through to Darwin (ca 800 miles from Torres Strait).

In the meantime, I've been doing some boat maintenance and looking for a dinghy. No luck on the dinghy front. So, now I'm resigned to sail without one till I get to Darwin where there should be a better selection.

Hopefully there will be cell phone coverage for at least part of the time while I'm sailing along the GBR, so feel free to call.