SV Estrellita 5.10b is for sale

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wauquiez_ad (2)The one, the only, SV Estrellita 5.10b is for sale. Details and contact information can be found here at DBY Yachts.

 

This is a happy time and a sad time at the same time. We are excited about our plans and the successful completion of our cruise and we are very sad to say so long to our beautiful girl.

 

The true hero of our voyage has always been and will always be Estrellita.

 

I will write more eventually about our reasons for completing our voyage, but the short version is that all is well, that we will be returning to Canada and to work, that this blog will over time reconfigure back to its namesake (The Giddyup Plan) and that our vagabonding days are on pause, not over.

 

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Most passages are short, but most passage nights are spent on long passages

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In the last 5.5 years we have sailed from Victoria, up to the Haida Gwaii and then down to Mexico and over to Australia. What are our passage NUMBERS?

GOPR3942 (Copy)In those 5.5 years, we have spent 136 nights at sea over 45 passages. 

Data by passage: Of the 45 passages, 22 (49%) of those passages were single overnighters between anchorages and 9 (20%) were two nights. We made 7 (16%) passages between three and five nights and 4 (9%) passages between six and nine nights. Only two passages were 10 nights long and 1 passage – Mexico to Marquesas obviously – was 26 nights.

The data show that most of our passages were short one to two night hops and only 15% were passages of six or more nights. But this is a bit misleading when you want to know what the average night at sea might feel like. What was the most common

IMG_5881 (Copy)Data by night: Of the 136 nights at sea, 34% of nights were spent on passages of 10 days or longer and 18% of the nights were on passages between 6 and 9 days. This means that more than half of the nights we spent at sea were part of “longer” passages of 6 or more nights. 23% of nights were part of 3 to 5 day passages, 16% of nights were on single overnighters and 7% of nights were on two night passages.

If I want to know what most passages were like, I can easily say “short”. But when I think back at my nights at sea, so many of my memories are from our long passages, where the night watch had become part of my daily rhythm and I was starting to enjoy that time.
As an aside, twice we left on a Friday and we were *gasp* perfectly fine. We actually tried to leave on a Friday the 13th but the weather never cooperated.

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3.5 Anchorages in Sydney Harbour

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P1070657 (Copy)Our first anchorage and one of our favorite was Athol Bay near Taronga Zoo. It was packed, and full of party boats on Saturday night, and had the normal amount of Sydney daytime bumpy wash, but it was beautiful and full of the sounds of zoo animals at night and in the morning. On one side of the boat I had the jungle and on the other side a postcard perfect view of Sydney Bridge and the Opera House.

We anchored out at first but there was such terrible anchoring techniques in display, with people putting out 1.5:1 scope and backing up at 4 knots, that we thought we had a serious risk of having our anchor pulled up by another boater. So, the day we were planning to leave the boat all day we moved to an available mooring after breakfast. Thanks for the beers Kate!

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P1070662 (Copy)We spent our longest stretch at Blackwattle Bay, right in the heart of downtown, near the Sydney Fish Market (but not too near if you know what I mean). It was excellent. The anchorage was busy but with everyone cooperating worked out well. One local boat of dubious character drifted away in the middle of the night in a bit of stronger wind without its owner aboard and was impounded.

P1070680 (Copy)The Fish Market no longer has a dinghy landing as the piers have been condemned and so we used the Rowing Club and several other public jetties conveniently located on park land bordering the anchorage. A great place for a run and we took full advantage, as did a huge number of runners and dog walkers. It was easy to walk to downtown, or to take all kinds of public transit to wherever you wanted to go from there. We spent days just wandering about downtown, letting ourselves get a little lost and accidentally find new neighborhoods which is how we accidentally went to the Lord Nelson Brewery. While we were in Blackwattle we had a great seafood Christmas lunch/dinner (more on that later) and took a trip up into the Blue Mountains (more on that later).

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Farm Cove is where we spent our amazing NYE. Dinghy access to shore is normally easy with a jetty near the Opera House. This is closed on NYE so do your booze run the day before if necessary! We heard that you can get big fines for taking a dinghy up to the wall and climbing over it. So if you do that, maybe don’t admit it.

sydney spring cove

Our last anchorage (it counts as half because we were hardly there) was an Spring/Manly/Little Manly Cove and we arrived, went into town for ice cream, and enjoyed the view from the cockpit but didn’t do much else here as we were bound the next morning up to the Pittwater area.

In sum, we could have easily spent another month in Sydney, enjoying the city. We probably would have alternated between the harbour anchorages which are lumpy all day as a wash builds up from the gazillion boats but fades at night, and then moved to Blackwattle/Rozelle when we wanted some flat non lumpy time. It’s a great town for boaters.

A Pacific Ocean’s Worth of Fees

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How much did our Pacific crossing cost us in fees for entering and exiting countries? Time for a NUMBERS post!

estrellitaImportant background: We are 35’ with two people aboard and no pets. We spent four seasons in the South Pacific between 2012 and 2015.  I am counting the cost of all required things for entrance and exit, even if the money doesn’t go to the goverment because I’m counting how much it cost us. We made some choices that other people don’t have to make. We didn’t visit all countries. Fees have changed over the years (particularly in the Cooks) so YMMV.

In sum: If you aren’t interested in the nitty gritty, the most we’ve paid in fees for clearances was for Australia, with Mexico coming in a close second.  The least we paid in fees was for New Caledonia where we paid nothing. Most other countries were in the approximately $200 range.

Country break down: All of the below are listed in the approximate USD cost.

IMG_0270Mexico: $400 USD buys a lot of cheap tacos! At the time of clearance in 2012 we had to pay a little over $110 for our TIP, $40 twice for fishing licences, and $210 for Mexican liability insurance (required by the govt, paid to a private party, despite our having other insurance). This would have allowed us to stay for quite a while (I forget how long) but we left after 6 months.

French Polynesia: We paid about $200 for an agent so we could avoid the bond. If we had been willing to risk the ups and downs of the currency markets and also getting our bond back in CFP at the end of our stay, this amount could have been zero, but I think our choice was fairly representative. If you count our return to Canada for our long stay visa, P1050239this would, of course, be the most expensive country on the list, particularly if we included airline tickets in our estimate of the “cost” so I’m just considering our first run through the country which was more normal.

Cooks: We paid a total of about $300 - $50 to clear in Suwarrow and then about $250 in various fees to exit.

Niue: It is a little difficult to decide how to categorize Niue. We only spent $54 in fees but you essentially must take a mooring which adds another $10 per day. Depending on how long you want to stay (and are able to with the exposed anchorage), this could become costly.

Tonga: We spent $183 in Tonga for three month stay. The clerance was inexpensive but after one month the visa ran about $30pp/per month.

Fiji: We paid $180 for all of the standard fees including visa extensions for our more than 4 month stay.

New Caledonia: No fee! No bond! No exit fee! …but you only get 3 months as a N American.

Australia: We paid $450 for two visas and the quarantee fee. Granted, they give you a year but holy crap!


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Watching the Sydney to Hobart race start

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IMG_0085 (2) (Copy)We chose to leave Estrellita in Blackwattle Bay and watch the 2015 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race start from South Head which, as it sounds, is the southern land mass at the entrance to Sydney Harbour. Leaving the dinghy at the rowing club, we walked a short walk to Darling Harbour and boarded a ferry, transferred once to a different ferry a the main downtown wharf and road that all of the way to Watson’s Bay. With Sydney’s new OPAL transit system making the transfers automatically for us, it cost us $8 pp each way, and included quite a harbour tour in the process.

 

We went to the lighthouse arriving at around 11am and found a prime spot to watch the boats round the first mark, and to watch them pop their spinnakers (in the North wind conditions of the this year’s start), although you miss the actual start across the line.

 

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There were a few other early birds enjoying picnics as well but even as the race start closed and the area became more full, it was never a real madhouse. The harbour, on the other hand, was absolutely crazy. The anchorages filled, boats were milling about, and as the race went on their was a stream of boats heading out and then back in the harbour. It looked really fun but although it would have been fun to be on someone else’s boat, we were glad that we could enjoy without the stress of navigating our home in the pack.

 

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We had brought a tablet with cellular internet and as the race start approached we watched the livestream (which apparently was down outside of Australia this year, but worked inside the country). We started passing news to our neighbors as the race horn went off. With supermaxis in the mix it only took about 5 minutes before the first boats came into our view. As non-race afficianados, it also gave us a chance to read more about the background of the boats.

 

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I will let you read the official race reporting if you want a good overview; I enjoyed the way their writer laid things out over the course of the event. The start was a crazy series of upsets and we got to watch several of the main dramas unfold by the first mark -- when the Australian sweetheart and regular line honors winner Wild Oats tacked inches behind Commanche, when Commanche took the lead, and when Perpetual couldn’t get their chute up.

 

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IMG_0126 (2) (Copy)The supermaxis and maxis were followed by the “normal sized boats” of which there were many. This was all unfolding to our left.

 

Simultaneously, on our right we watched a series of blows spinnakers as people attempted to hoist them in peppy winds as they turned out of the harbour and headed South.

 

One things I really enjoyed about watching from South Head was how into the race the crowd was. There were gasps, commentary, cheers and a great vibe on the way to the area and away from it, even though the crowds were all trying to funnel into small paths and staircases on the park trails.

 

It was an exciting year for American yachting as an American supermaxi, Comanche, took line honors. The actual winner of the race however, was Balance, an Australian Farr TP52.

 

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Overall, this was a memory for a lifetime. So delighted we were able to be in a position to attend. When we made landfall in Coff’s it wasn’t at all clear that we would make our way all of the way down to Sydney and I am really glad conditions were favorable to do so.

Sydney New Years Eve 2015
















There are times while cruising that I am filled with such joy at our choice to take off on a boat – not a plane, not a campervan, but a boat – because whatever I’m experiencing is so much better from the vantage of a floating home.

Being on Sydney Harbour, with our own boat, after having sailed there across an ocean, watching the fireworks explode seemingly over our head, from multiple directions was an experience of a lifetime.

We anchored in Farm Cove in about 35’ of water. We had arrived on the 30th of Dec and anchored farther into the harbour in shallower water. By noon on the 30th there were a dozen boats in the harbour and at least the same amount at the mouth of the harbour by the point on the East side. On the morning of the 31st we saw a nice hole in the anchorage with a better view and moved to it (S33°51'36.50" E151°13'13.07"). By noon, the anchorage was packed. By 5pm it was getting ridiculous and as the winds switched direction, people had to reanchor to avoid hitting other boats as we swung. By 8pm, the already packed anchorage had a few last minute additions – the last minute people being the least skilled at anchoring of course. We watched one boat try so many times that another sailor got in his dinghy, boarded their boat and helped them anchor (he was downwind of their gong show). With all of that said, the winds were light, the mood was exuberant and friendly all around us, and we only felt the need to put fenders down once on one side of our bow. Not too stressful.

The air show was excellent, the water spraying tug amusing, the lighted boat parade was classic and both sets of fireworks were spectacular. Go Sydney!

On a NUMBERS note, in the 2015 cruising season which began at the end of April for us and finished at NYE, we used 153 engine hours, about 43 gallons of diesel, about 50 gallons of gasoline and we refilled our 20lb propane tank 4 times.