Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Maggie Island

Townsville is particularly blessed as a port because it has an off-lying island as an easy destination for a sail. Magnetic Island is affectionately known by locals as Maggie Island. It is lovely. Beautiful walks, stunning bays. Picturesque granite boulders everywhere, and a bit of military history.

 View from The Forts, a WWII gun-post.


 Arthur bay

Friday, August 1, 2014

Easy cruising

This cruise is particularly undemanding. Lovely sunny weather, a gentle SE trade wind of 10-20 knots most of the time, and not far to go from Airlie Beach to Townsville in two weeks.

So we have been enjoying the easy pace, some lovely sails, and sorting out a few tasks before the big trip in September.

Here I am trying out a new cover for the RIB in case we have a 'Life of Pi' experience. We also have an official life-raft, but I regard it as little more inviting than a blow-up kids paddling pool. We may end up with two separate ones; one for us and one for the tiger!

More safety rehearsals

A few days in the Whitsundays.

Stonehaven Bay sunset 

We are not Tamils, honestly hossifer!

 Bowen headland

Some success. A spotted mackerel

A fisherman at Bowen who is more successful than us!

 Coal ships at Abbott Point

Trawlers at Cape Upstart

There is a controversy currently raging about the dredging of the area around Abbott Point as part of a plan to increase coal exports from Queensland to India. Read about it here. The concern, which is entirely legitimate, is that the spoil from the dredging will damage the Great Barrier Reef, which is already under stress from various environmental threats.

The GBR is on a shallow shelf about 50-60 metres deep. I am surprised that neither the proponents nor the opponents of the scheme have put up the idea of dumping the spoil off the edge of the continental shelf, less than 80 nautical miles away. It would do much less damage there.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Solar developments

We are back aboard in the Whitsundays, with the simple project of enjoying a relaxing cruise to Townsville, and ensuring that all is in order for the big adventure to the Louisiades starting on September 12th.

I thought I would discuss developments in solar power on boats, for those interested. No doubt some readers of this blog are already ahead of me.

After the lightning strike, and the electrical refit that followed, I asked for consideration to be made for a future increase in solar panels. As part of that, our solar regulator was changed from a Steca Solarix PRS 2020, which used the PWM system and was good for 20 amps, to a Morningstar Tristar TS-MPPT-60 solar controller, which uses the MPPT system, and can handle 60 amps.

The difference between PWM and MPPT is important.

In simple terms, the task of the controller is to reduce the voltage coming from the panel to a level that is safe for the battery. This is particularly important with the lithium batteries that we have. The older systems of solar regulator basically throw away any voltage that is too high.
But the MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) solar regulators manage to convert excessive volts into more amps at 12 volts (safe for the batteries), thus increasing the effective yield from the panels.

Another bonus from this is that one can attach more than one panel in series, and boost the harvest from the beginning and end of the day when the sun is weaker. The Tristar TS-MPPT-60 can accept up to 150 volts maximum. 

The second development of interest is the arrival of thin flexi-panels that can be zipped into canvas shades. Previously I had imagined that we would need to build some solid fibreglass panels and mount conventional solid glass panels on them. Because they will lie under the boom, and dangling ropes such as reefing lines sometimes sweep across the cockpit roof at speed when we gybe, I had imagined our expensive solar contraptions landing with a splash somewhere downwind.

But the recent arrival of 1.5mm thick flexi-panels means that we can zip them into our existing canvas sunshades with minimal weight and expense. 

They are connected as two sub-arrays, port and starboard, with the pair on each side connected in series, and the two subarrays connected in parallel to the MPPT controller.

Each sub-array can put out a maximum of 48.5 volts. The MPPT controller massages that down to a safe level and boosts the amps.

On a sunny day I have seen it registering 25 amps. Loverly! My Dad would have been very impressed!

I can unzip the panels and remove them and roll away the sunshades if we are leaving the boat over the cyclone season, or are exposed to high winds.

All good!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Seawind regatta

We joined a week-long regatta for Seawind catamarans around the Whitsundays. Various bits of fun and games. Some racing.

 Off the beach at Long Island

 Graeme Nolan, organizer of the rally

Hawaiian night

 Racing from Long Island to Nara Inlet

 Duet, a Seawind 1200

Reflection, a Seawind 1250

 Backpacker sunrise

Friday, June 13, 2014

Climbing Whitsunday Peak

 Skink and fungi

 Daniel Point and Hook Passage

 Gulnare Inlet and Hamilton Island

Thursday, June 12, 2014


After spending the cyclone season in Mackay, we are back on board at last. We sailed Nimrod first to Shaw Island, and then to collect our friends Tiff and Dawne from the airport at Hamilton Island.

Dawne & Tiff

The weather has been pretty grim; gusty and heavy rain at times. We hid in Cid Harbour with many other boats, and had a splash out to the iconic Tongue Bay and Hill Inlet, before a brief snorkel in Cateran Bay on Border Island. We then retreated to the shelter of the deep fjord-like inlets of Nara and Gulnare.

Cid Harbour

Hill Inlet 

Nara Inlet 


Gulnare Inlet

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Aelwen @ 9 months

Show me a Grandad with a camera and I will show you some cluck-photography!

Aelwen and Sim by the Arts Centre

Playing with the glass wall waterfall at the National Gallery of Victoria

On the train

Anna (proud Mum)