Since completing the lap of Tassie at the end of January we have been flat out with preparation for the trip but ROAM herself has been static, tied securely to the fishermans wharf in St.Helens. Mick has spent nearly all of the last 3 months at sea working to fund the next stage, Liss and I have been working at home, myself back in the local pharmacy and Liss doing everything in her capabilities from Nutrition to Hairdressing with some Personal Training in the middle. With the help of John we have been getting all the small jobs done that needed to be completed after the shake down trip. Main jobs were some batten adjustments which ended up being a larger job than previously thought when the batten cars had some issues and needed replacing, setting up the staysail; this included a Selden furler with a continuous line that required an adjusted long splice in 12mm double braid which is not the easiest to splice. When Mick got back from offshore we got stuck into the Jordan Series Drogue and the watermaker, both quite substantial projects. Also during the time at home I met a British sailor (Holly) who I've somehow tricked into joining teamROAM from the Aus departure onwards.
For our planned crossing to New Zealand we had to move either to Hobart or Launceston to depart to deal with customs etc. As soon as May came around Tassie changed from a long lovely summer to howling Westerlies with continuous low pressure systems rolling through fast. Ideally we were looking for a weak low with a flat bottomed high behind to hopefully make it to Nelson or Opua before the next low pushed through but it seemed that time of year had past. There was a couple of day windows to make it to Launceston then a possible departure in the following week. So with ROAM packed with plenty of food and all our usual toys (surfboards, guitars, paddle boards etc.) we left St Helens, planning to spend a night at Eddystone. With the winds at a solid 35 knots Westerly it was a quick zip up the coast. We put the hook down at about 2pm, by 5pm we had decided to abandon our plan of Launceston and head for Eden. Getting North gave us more chance of a lighter wind crossing to NZ.
From Eddystone to Eden took us 2 days and 2 nights with varying wind conditions from strong 20 knot plus upwind to really nice beam reaching conditions and also some light winds. This gave ROAM a really good test of her staysail but also tested out our fishing gear. With Holly and myself doing the 4am to 8am watch we put out the lines at dawn. After about 30 minutes one of the rods went off. I knocked the engine into idle, furled the headsail and adjusted the drag on the reel in my full wet weathers just as Mick jumped up in his undies. Quite a sight me in my full reds looking like Santa with him pretty much naked. We landed a few Skipjack Tunas and Liss cooked up an epic Thai green curry for lunch. With 4 crew members we run the watches in 4 hour shifts with 2 on at a time, with a shorter 2 hour watch at lunch to allow the nights to alternate. Highlights of the trip included some great sailing passages and on a calm night watch off the Vic coast Holly and I experienced the most amazing Bioluminescence, bright blue flecks in the ocean making it seem like it had no surface and schools of fish glowing blue as they moved below.
Into Eden on a foggy wet morning we were greeted with the happy sight of seeing “Banyandah” Jack and Jude's boat, cruising royalty whom we met up the Gordon River, check out their website here! Really great to have a chat again to people with such vast sailing experience! I gave my drone a bit of a fly over the headland and got a bit nervous as the Swallows started dive bombing it. Bit of a tip for drone pilots, avoid nesting birds!
With a lack of a weather window to head towards NZ we decided to continue North to Port Stephens to let the boat designer Craig Schionning have a look over ROAM. Most of the boats in Eden headed North in the morning, with Jack and Jude leaving around 12pm. There was a westerly change predicted for around lunch. We headed out at 2pm just after we thought it had gone through, pulled out the 2nd reefed main and full genoa and were gybing our way out of Eden when some big angry clouds started rolling in, just as we decided they were coming our way (a big SW buster) we saw whirl winds and sheeting water across Twofold Bay. Mick flipped us round nose into the wind and Holly, Liss and I ran forward to drop the main. With it just down in time we were hit with sustained 45knot winds, 1-2 metre swell with a short period and max wind speed of over 50 knots. The girls and myself threw ourselves on top of the main before we could get some ties around it. Although slightly hectic we all managed well and handled it as best we could have done. After the front had past through we aimed North.
Mick went down into the starboard hull a few minutes later and found it ankle deep, full of water!!! This isn't as worrying in a cat as in a mono as theoretically it can't sink. We quickly discovered that one of the mountain bikes had fallen in the storm onto the shower knob and 300 litres of our pure home-made water was now sloshing up and down the starboard hull, which also happens to be Liss and Mick's bedroom cabin. With Mick and I continuing to sail, the girls got to work with the emergency hand bilge pump and a bucket and sponge and emptied it all out. This gave the floors a good wash at least!
The whole trip North was pretty windy, sustained Westerlies of around 30 knots for most of the way, we aimed to hug the coast and stay out of the swell, West winds would be pretty fun but most of the time there was a fair bit of North in it as well so we were pretty hard on the breeze. Day 2 of the trip was Liss's birthday, during our 4am to 8am watch Holly and I set up the party stuff we had bought in Eden, balloons, “Happy Birthday” signs, cupcakes with candles, presents and bubbles. The wind eased just on dawn so we swapped from the staysail to the Genoa. As the Genoa was unfurled I thought we had lost halyard tension so Holly and I went forward to adjust. On investigation a nut had come off the furler allowing it to slide up the forstay. I got Mick out of bed to assist, he decided we needed to drop the Genoa. So on her birthday morning Liss wakes up to find the three of us wrestling with the Genoa on the fordeck barely noticing the party we had created in the lounge.
After sorting the sail we then decided to head into Ulladulla to replace the missing nut and had Liss's birthday bubbles and party on the the way in with a nice sunrise. With Mick heading up the mast to have a look, Holly and I took a couple of Diesel cans into town to fill and get a couple of bits from the hardware. The first person Holly asked for directions (Liz) turned out to be the nicest person in the world, she gave us a lift to the servo and showed us where the hardware was. On exiting the hardware and just starting to contemplate the walk back with the fuel she turned up again in a different car to give us a lift back to the boat. Thanks Liz!!!!! We put the Genoa back on and headed off with a total time in Ulladulla of about 40 minutes. The rest of the trip North was reasonably uneventful, consistent winds between 20-35 knots, forward of the beam mostly but a really nice leg from Newcastle to Port Stephens in gusty down wind of 30 plus knots. Much nicer than when we were getting past Newcastle in 30 knots with 3 huge tankers and a dredge vessel heading for us and not wanting to alter course.
We spent a week in Port Stephens doing a couple of little jobs on ROAM, lots of paddle boarding, some wake surfing behind the tender, and Holly and I gave the hull a scrub to try out the new snorkelling gear. All the time looking for a weather window and starting to realise that we may have left it too late to make it to NZ. We departed Port Stephens on the Friday at about 5 pm aiming for a cruisy overnight sail to Pittwater. The weather had different ideas with a perfect down wind run of around 20 knots, one gybe saw us into Refuge bay at just after midnight, our average speed for the trip was over 10 knots and a max of 17.8 knots. When in Refuge we sit out a SW front and we decide to bail on the NZ idea and use an amazing weather system to make it all the way to Fiji, so after a quick surf at Barrenjoey (checked from the drone over the headland) we went to Sydney to provision and clear out. We spent the first night in behind the Opera House in the best real estate Sydney has to offer!!
The second and third nights we moved to Blackwattle Bay, an amazing free anchorage just behind the fish markets that customs come to so it makes it pretty easy. During this time however Mick gets a call from work needing him in Broome on the 10th of June. That only leaves us 2 weeks to get to Fiji (1800 nm) and then for him to fly back to Aus. We all felt this was cutting it a bit fine so the group decision became to divert to New Caledonia, a paradise of sailing, diving with some fun surf too. Our mate Iain was flying from Perth with a couple of kiteboard set ups for the trip so we decided not to tell him of the destination change until he had no other choice.... Then came the provisioning trips, with the use of Uber and the Sydney Markets we stocked the boat with as much fresh as we thought we would need for the trip at a tiny price. Such a good way to shop and better than the big chain supermarkets!!
Customs cleared us out at 10:30 on Friday the 27th of May, with a final few hundred litres of water made as we left the heads we aimed North up the coast in 30 knots of west wind, 5 mates on board, aiming for paradise!!!!