Changing Cruising Plans

October 2022

There I was one week sitting on my computer, calculating ratios of tinned tomatoes to packets of dried beans on a spreadsheet, getting ready for our big trip up to the Louisiades… and the next I am working out how to store the Trade Goods we had collected (clothes, books, pencils, fishing gear etc.) out of the way on the boat ready for next time… our plans had got turned on their head.  That is the problem with cruising plans; until you are actually somewhere, you can’t be guaranteed that you’ll end up at the somewhere when you thought you would.  Our cruising plan for this year had been to wait until after our trip to Europe and then head up to The Louisiades, an island group on the eastern (right) side of Papua New Guinea.  We have read the travel guides and books, bought the flags and charts, stocked the boat for at least 3 months (in fact I have 6 months of tinned butter, chocolate and toilet paper snuck away.  And it is making sure to inventory where it is all stored that is really important – imagine the horror of knowing you have a last bag of Jatz biccies on board but not being able to find it! The stuff of nightmares, but back to the main story).  In preparation for leaving Australia, we have been granted the relevant VISAs and started the process for exporting the boat – all exciting and new territory for us.  After we arrived back in Australia from our European holiday we fitted the new tender, picked up the new boat cat and moved the boat down to Cairns to refuel and wait for checking out of Australia …

Our last sunset in Port Douglas.  (We were out for an evening meal at the Tin Shed with Jenny and Terry from AraRoa and Jennifer and Mark from N43 ‘Starlet’).

Then we started hearing from people who had been to the Louisiades recently about boats being boarded by armed men and I didn’t like the sound of that.  To get to the Louisiades, we have to check into mainland PNG first and that is where there is some trouble at the moment.  We had been advised by the consulate to wait until after the general elections, but it seems the usual unrest has not settled down yet, and then we were advised to hire an armed guard to sit on the boat.  None of this felt very ‘laid back and tropical lifestyle-ish’.  We also heard other reports of cruisers having a lovely time in the Louisiades.  But they had arrived from the east and didn’t seem to have checked into the country (which by-passes the armed men problem, but opens you up to a whole set of other problems).

So new plans have been sketched out.  We have now missed the weather window for heading east into the Pacific due to the cyclone season and will have to wait until next April to leave Australia.  So New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji will have to wait until mid-2023.  What to do until then?  Well, there is a lot of Queensland coast to explore, our insurance is still good for being north during cyclone season and we are fully stocked and fueled, so Great Barrier Reef and Ribbon Reefs here we come.

During all this planning, changing plans and re-planning, life has continued and we have kept busy with other projects.

The BIG announcement (just in case you missed it hidden in the opening spiel) is that ‘Opal Lady’ has a boat cat once more.  Peter and I realised that we need a third, and furry, person on board.  We first met Taz (it’s the name he came with) looking down at us from the top of the 3m roller doors at the cat shelter.  We had gone to meet another cat, but once the staff got Taz down with the lure of fish, we knew he belonged on our boat.  He is perfect for the boating lifestyle; short fur, short legs and a wide rear (a naturally low centre of gravity).  He is young enough to grow into the family, but old enough to safely negotiate the stairs (we think somewhere between 1 and 2 years old). Once we showed him where the kitty tray was located, he bounced back up the stairs, found the highest point in the pilot house and promptly went to sleep. 

I swear he can sleep almost anywhere, although I fail to see how lying across the work box could have been comfortable. 

We were a bit worried about how Taz would go on his first big trip.  It was the five hour cruise down to Cairns from Port Douglas and the stabilisers broke down half an hour into the trip.  He was as cool as a cucumber. 

You wouldn’t guess from the catitude that the boat was under way when this photo was taken.  Taz is possibly the most laid-back feline I have ever met – I truly believe he is a reincarnated surfer dude. 

‘Opal Lady’ has decided to have a sulk at our leaving her for a holiday with a canal boat.  Enroute to Cairns a fitting failed, draining the hydraulic oil out of the stabilisers and into the bilge.  Messy and inconvenient, but the seas weren’t too bad so we continued on.  Unfortunately, we discovered that we needed to replace the entire oil pump (because of the way it is powered it had kept running even after we’d turned the system off, and as there was no oil in the system, the pump got cooked).  A new pump had to be purpose built in Brisbane – no probs, what’s a week or two between me and cruising the Big Blue.  Two weeks later with a shiny new pump fitted, failed fitting removed, oil replaced and a sneaky bypassing of the ‘low oil pressure’ alarm we headed off to catch up with ‘AraRoa’ in the Coral Sea. 

Perfect seas for heading off-shore

The sensor for the oil pressure alarm was damaged when the fitting failed and the replacement was coming from the US.  We don’t normally by-pass alarms, but after consulting the NOG, the Nordhavn Owners Group, we were assured that as we could read the pressure manually at the gauge, we could safely ignore that alarm and were given the sneaky code for changing the setting in the unit controller.  ‘Opal Lady’ had just reached the end of the leads into Cairns when the stabliser alarm went off again.  This time it was for high oil temperature.  We checked and the temperature was fine, so another faulty sensor (unfortunately it is often the way that one problem starts a cascading effect on a system).  It was tempting to ignore that alarm and just keep going.  But the next level for the temperature alarm actually shuts the stabilisers off (not good if we were in big seas and really not good if the fins didn’t get locked straight) so it was time to be conservative and return to Cairns.  Not incredibly happy, but we did a brilliant berthing – so something to celebrate.

We were going a little stir crazy so took advantage of some flat seas to pop out to Green Island for a few days – so nice being on the water again.  The photo shows the jetty jutting out to the right where the big tourist cats dock.  There is a resort hidden behind the tree line.

Green Island is the tourist stop over closest to Cairns.  But tied up to a public mooring out where we were you wouldn’t notice.  It is in a Green Zone area, so no fishing.  We did practise getting the new tender off the boat (all went well) and pottered about snorkelling some very pretty bombies.  We didn’t head in to shore this trip as Peter wanted to check out the zinc anodes under the boat.  Next trip we intend to do the walk around the island and the self-guided nature walk across the island – but this trip was to focus on those blocks and spheres of zinc.

Peter using the powerdive

It is definitely stinger season; we had waves of the clear little beasties wafting past, vindictively pinging across our exposed faces. Nothing serious, but definitely uncomfortable in the short term. I’m not even sure what type of jelly they were; they could have been comb jellies or smallish box jellyfish (obviously not the lethal variety).

Suz ever ready to pass bits to the anode guy

Then back to Cairns to meet the mail and hopefully a set of hydraulic oil sensors (and probably a margarita or two at the local – it’s never all doom and gloom).

Taz Talks:

G’day, the name is Taz and I think I have most definitely landed on my paws with Peter and Suz.  The bedding situation is most satisfactory, I’m loving the deep sides on the kitty tray, food keeps appearing like there is no tomorrow and Peter really likes it when I practise my rugby tackles on his toes at 4 in the morning (well he makes a lot of noise about it).  I’ve had a good look around the house and it seems to be well sized for me (I’m not the biggest lad in the pack, played hooker on the rugby team at the ‘lost/dumped/traded-in cats’ home in Cairns).  But this place does have some stability issues; a real watery basement, I’m not pulling your paw, it is surrounded by water! I wandered up to the open-air attic last week and scared Suz by ‘hanging eight’ over the edge of the roof while getting the feel of the salt air in my whiskers – and it felt goooood.  According to some rather load mouthed loafers up there, they called themselves the Gulls, this is called a boat and the water situation is normal and often associated with fresh fish – well you live and learn. I’m thinking I could get used to this lifestyle.

Boat Bits:

One of the big benefits of these boats is that there is a large and active online owner’s group; the NOG.  Given there are contributors all over the world you can get advice pretty much any time of the day or night.  Some of the contributors are people who have actually built these boats, so they know what they are talking about.  We followed the adventures of one poor boat whose engine had just stopped working in the middle of Bass Strait at 2am – they put out a call (email to the NOG) and were talked through a solution and back under way within a few hours.  Very reassuring.  Peter has even made some contributions himself.

I have been asked why our blog features a lot of breakdown and maintenance stories.  It’s not because we break down more often than usual, it’s just that is the reality of living on a boat with so many systems.  That is also when there is the most action when living on a boat.  We are also engineers and are genuinely interested in how everything runs (or decides not to run) and want to share that.  I was talking to a couple who used to write regular articles for a large boating magazine in Europe and commented that I enjoyed reading those articles about how they had solved or survived a particular problem, as it made me feel that I too could do it.  I was surprised to be told that their publisher was always asking them to tone down all that side of their boating stories so as not to disturb their readership.  I know many of our readers skip the technical stuff and just want to read about the blue water/tropical island and cat comments.  But I like to think that it might be reassuring to a fellow boating person to read that what you are experiencing is not unusual.  As an aside though, I do sometimes feel that we will have rebuilt or replaced every system on this boat during our ownership, but …

The view from our mooring at Green Island

It is worth it.

Boat Works:

Replaced zinc anodes on hull, stern thruster and both props.

Installed an IridiumGo satellite communication unit.

Navigation Notes:

[This is a record of our experiences and is not intended as a recommendation for others. Phone reception on ‘Opal Lady’ is assisted with the use of a CellFiGo booster. We measure our depths from the lowest point of the hull (add 1.6m for actual water level depth).]

I have only included the Coast Guard that are monitored 7 days a week.  There are also a number of daytime/weekend stations, but they are not listed here. All stations monitor CH16 (and various others, but also not listed here)

28th October mooring buoy at Green Island; 16 45.149S, 145 58.329E; green buoy in 3.5m depth. Winds light SE; comfortable, some rolling at change of tide. There seem to be a few entrance channels on the north side of the island, post a lookout when entering. The island has a lovely bright lighthouse and excellent phone reception. [Marine Park Zoning Map 5 – Cairns, Qld Govt, 2019 (or] [Fish Finder Magazine, 2020, pg246] [Rob’s Passage Planner – East Coast Australia Lizard Island to Hobart, R. Starkey, 3rd ed, 2014, pg33] [Cruising the Coral Coast, A Lucas, 2014, pg249] [Chart AUS834] [Weather Zone – North Tropical Waters Cooktown to Cardwell] [Coast Guard Cairns VMR409]

Banner photo – Sunset from Green Island

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Luv Your Blog!😎

    1. Thanks Jude. We love hearing about your touring the inside of Australia.

  2. You must “go with the flow” I suppose (little boating joke). Welcome Taz, congratulations on your new edition! He looks extremely happy to have found an amazing family to become a part of.

    1. Taz said Thx Alana (he is of that generation that uses abbreviations for everything).

      1. Taz must be a special guy to have been selected as the 3rd crew member. He certainly looks happy and settled in his new pad. I’m certainly no engineer but still happily read through your technical bits. I don’t necessarily memory bank the details long term but I do read them! x

        1. Greetings Bek, Taz said thank you for reading the technical bits, as he certainly isn’t going to.

  3. I love Taz!!! So sorry about Neon (I missed that blog) Your cruising looks amazing – so blue and tranquil. x

    1. Taz is enjoying his new fan club Lisa; I fear all this praise will go to his head. Hopefully we will get to do some more blue and tranquil cruising next week.

  4. Awww .. love seeing you have a new shipmate. He’s really landed on his feet with you two as his ‘parentals’. 🙂

    1. Taz is in total agreement Vona. And we are sure that we are the lucky ones finding such a cruise-y shipmate.

  5. Hi Suz your travels look amazing. Really nice seeing you in Kalgoorlie. Been a while look forward to your next big trip. Tax is beautiful love his colour.

    1. Greetings Sue, It was lovely catching up with you. Taz is a rather odd grey and caramel tabby colour combination, but he would agree with you that he is beautiful. Our next big trip will hopefully be in April when the Pacific cruising season starts again – stay tuned. Suz

  6. Great blog. N43 is the ideal all round boat for long range cruising. We have 2 ageing cats which have travelled everywhere with us across the world including 4 years living aboard and cruising. Night watches are never lonely with one snuggled up beside you.

    1. Greetings Niels, welcome to our little blog. I agree totally, cats are the best cruising companions. Where did you cruise with your cats? Our little N43 has just proved that she is indeed a big water cruiser, having gotten us safely to Chesterfield Reef in the Coral Sea, through some really foul conditions (my excuse for being so tardy with your reply). We are anchored here until there is a break in the weather for our last 5 day run to Port Vila, Vanuatu. Maybe it is because you had two cats, but I have found that Taz prefers to spend all his shifts with whoever is off watch rather than helping to keep the working person awake. I’ll have to have a discussion with him about his at sea duties.

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