October 17

Early this morning, at about 4am, we decided we just weren't making any progress at 3.5k so we began motoring. Motor sailing really, since the sails were up (ha ha). Our fuel situation is not great, but better to burn what we have now while there is no wind then hoard it for some future time which hasn't come yet. We will, of course, keep a healthy amount in reserve for entering port, but for now we have no choice.

At 9am there seemed to be a bit of a breeze coming from the Northeast, so we hoisted the chute (spinnaker) and for a short while were making 5.5k in about 10-13k True wind. Alas, by 10:30am it had decreased to about 7k and we were barely making 3k. We struck the chute and began motoring again.

It is now 1:45pm and we have been motoring steadily since 11am making about 5.2k over ground. The sun is, of course, shining (if only we had this weather while we were in Vanuatu or Fiji!) and it is stifling hot outside. Our latitude is about 21 degrees which is about the same as the Turks and Caicos and the Southern Bahamas in the Caribbean. This being Spring in these parts, you can imagine how warm it is. The sky is also lovely with small, white puffy clouds neatly spaced across the sky. None of them seem to be moving anywhere. The wind is a nominal 5k from the NE or North and seems to box the compass randomly.

Due to our fuel situation (we don't have enough) we have reluctantly decided to make our first port of entry in Australia the town of Bundaberg, about 220 miles North of Brisbane. Bundaberg has 2 things going for it in our case - first, we can almost certainly reach it under power with the fuel we have aboard, and second, the port can be easily entered without any gyrations or complex navigation as are required when entering Moreton Bay (Brisbane). This means we can enter at ay time of the day or night with ease. Right now, assuming we continue motoring, we expect to arrive at Bundaberg on the evening of the 19th, sometime between 5 and 10pm. In other words, we have about 53 hours to go.

It is now 7:15pm and the sun has set. There is still no wind of any kind. The instruments record 5k of wind from the NNE, but it has been clocking around from anywhere between NNW, West and East all day in strengths anywhere from 2 to 7k. Unfortunately, as our desired course is still 219M anything from the North is a downwind run for us and thus requires a great deal more wind than this to move us. Our apparent wind, as we motor at 5k, is less then 1k on the instruments.

This afternoon the captain has been conducting a fuel consumption analysis and the results have been quite encouraging and surprising. Running at only 1500rpm, which in calm seas like this gives us a 5.5k boat speed (speed over ground varies as currents mitigate or enhance this speed), we have used in a 4 hour test period only 3.75 gallons of fuel. This is about half of what I had expected. My guess, based on mfgr info, was that at this speed (ie. low rpms) we would still burn close to 1.25gph. The mfgr data suggests a consumption rate of 2.25gph at WOT which is close to 2400rpm, an engine speed we never even approach. Our "top" cruising speed is usually 2200rpm which gives us close to 7k of boat speed in calm seas.

The upshot of all this is that I have been overestimating consumption and underestimating our potential range, at low rpms. Given this data it is no longer a question whether we have enough fuel to reach Australia. For caution though, I am conducting a duplicate analysis over the next 4 hour period and assuming the results match we will open her up tomorrow and increase our speed. Furthermore, it does seem clear now that we can easily reach Brisbane instead of Bundaberg (Brisbane being about 100nm further, from our current position, then Bundaberg). However, after considering the issue of the tricky entrance and the requirement to make our arrival time at Moreton bay at least 5 hours before sunset we are not anxious to head for Brisbane. Further, this afternoon we spent a few minutes examining the Lonely Planet guide to the Gt. Barrier Reef and have discovered there are several idyllic islands at the Southern end of the Reef's islands which are just 40nm NE of Bundaberg. We are now planning to spend some time exploring these islands before settling in at Brisbane. This is especially attractive considering the aborted season we experienced in the tropics this year (due to equipment failures and poor weather conditions).

After Bundaberg we will visit either one or both of two islands which look particularly interesting - Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrove islands. According to Lonely Planet they have excellent diving and beautiful beaches (photos of the islands seem to support the second claim).

Oh, I almost forgot. At about 6pm while sitting in the cockpit Kate noticed a group of birds circling about a half mile ahead of us. I changed course about 10 degrees to port so we would pass right through them and dropped the hook in the water. I will also admit to being so cocky I put on the fighting belt right away (a harness with a socket where the rod can be supported while fighting a fish). Within 3 minutes we had a fish on the line. It was a lovely Yellowfin Tuna of about 20-25lbs, our first and only tuna of this season. After a 10 or 15 minute fight we had her on board and she was soon filleted and stowed in the reefer for tomorrow (tuna needs to cool down before being cooked for maximum flavor). Sometimes everything just works our right.

Well, it is now about midnight and at 11pm the captain (ahem, myself) woke to take over the watch only to find a wind had sprung up from the NE at, according to our instruments, about 13-14k. This prompted the immediate raising of the mainsail, followed by the unfurling of the genoa. Of course, once the wind gods noticed this activity the wind dropped back to about 7k. It seems to be fluctuating between 8 and 11k and we are hopeful it will inch back up closer to 14.

Meanwhile, at 11pm I re-checked the fuel gauge (on take #5, the tank we have been running on while doing the fuel consumption analysis described above) to find it below the predicted level of , closer to 1/8 in fact. This has led us to conclude that the earlier test results are in fact in-conclusive. Therefore, we are going to sail as much as possible regardless of the speed we can achieve, even if that be 3k, usually well below our slowness threshold. I don't think the results we got on the first test are way, way off, but I now suspect the reality is closer to 1.25gph then 1gph as our results initially showed. Of course, I am kicking myself hourly for the fact that I am sitting here (after almost 2 years of living aboard) for not knowing our true consumption rate. Any power boat owners are probably reading this now and snickering, as they of course live and die by this type of information. But I wonder if I am alone among sailors or if it is a common deficiency considering motoring is not something we (sailors) do readily or with great joy. Better to ignore it as much as possible and just sail the damn boat.