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Old 01-23-2011, 03:11 AM   #1
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Hi all

I’m interested in whether it is feasible to cruise the Queensland coast during the cyclone season, all the way up to the Torres Strait?

If it is feasible, is it mainly a question of staying within reach of a ‘safe’ anchorage?

Also, what are the implications for insurance?

Any comments or directions to good books or articles would be very much welcomed.

Regards, Mike.
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Old 01-23-2011, 06:57 AM   #2
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Hi all

I’m interested in whether it is feasible to cruise the Queensland coast during the cyclone season, all the way up to the Torres Strait?

If it is feasible, is it mainly a question of staying within reach of a ‘safe’ anchorage?

Also, what are the implications for insurance?

Any comments or directions to good books or articles would be very much welcomed.

Regards, Mike.
G'day Mike. YES you can but why would yo??? Seems to me that intentionally climbing into a big, commercial, fast, heavy duty washing machine when you've never had anything except a small hand bowl to wash-in is 'hopping in at the deep end'. Big place up here. Lots of reefs, very tight navigation so extremely high standards required - to say the very least. Strong currents & winds. Not many places to hide - in the very bad weather which comes with very little warning !! You haven't filled in your 'profile' so we don't know much about you, your experience, your capabilities, your resourcefulness or your sailing experience or abilities. What's the size, shape & condition of the vessel you intend to do this in? Does it 'go to windward'. How big is the motor. How reliable is the whole yacht as a 'life support system - cause it's your life on the line. That is until you get in trouble then 'rescue people's lives are on the line. NOT good. Hay cobber, get real, please. Give us some info so we can make a correct evaluation & really be of some valuable constructive help to you. It's not 'luck' we need to wish you but experience, knowledge & stamina, as well as 'good fortune' you'll need to have. I've been sailing these & many other 'waters' for a bit now & others in the people in these forums have forgotten more than I'll ever learn in 5 life-times. You 'fill in the blanks' & we can advise but your the 'captain' of your boat, your destiny & how you choose to get there, we - at best - can only offer some 'token' advise. Give us a break, will you. Ciao for up-north Qld, james
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Old 01-23-2011, 10:14 AM   #3
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Thanks James

Yes I appreciate that one wouldn't normally choose to sail during the cyclone season but we are pondering an idea that would require us to be in SE Asia at a time that necessitates such a trip. The boat doesn't exist yet, but it will be at least 40 foot and crewed by two experienced, highly qualified sailors (although not experienced is Australian waters). My question is really a general one and from your answer I gather that very few would risk being off the north Qld during the cyclone season?

Another question I have is, when is the season? I see widely varying assessments.

Regards, Mike
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Old 01-23-2011, 09:58 PM   #4
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Thanks James

Yes I appreciate that one wouldn't normally choose to sail during the cyclone season but we are pondering an idea that would require us to be in SE Asia at a time that necessitates such a trip. The boat doesn't exist yet, but it will be at least 40 foot and crewed by two experienced, highly qualified sailors (although not experienced is Australian waters). My question is really a general one and from your answer I gather that very few would risk being off the north Qld during the cyclone season?

Another question I have is, when is the season? I see widely varying assessments.

Regards, Mike
G'day Mile. I'm 'pleased' that you understood my e-mails - intent. Re, "my question is really a general one" etc. - - As I see it (that is if I were preparing for the trip myself) - the tasks to overcome are; the 'choice' of yacht, - the quality of navigation equipment & skills, - the TOTALLY unpredictable fast moving weather conditions, - & very few places to 'run-&-hide' at short notice. Go into 'BOM' site & watch our little friend's track off the coast - - cyclone 'Anthony' - it's not the problems for 'safe passage-making' that 'Anthony' presents - that is the point here, it's that it formed very quickly, it (as all cyclones do) has a very erratic path (to quote all the weather people ' in the know' - the one thing everyone knows about cyclones is that - no one knows 'anything' (in advance) about cyclones - - repeat, repeat, repeat. 'Anthony' may - go to sea, turn & come back to the coast, double in strength or just fizzle-out & become a 'low'. I could go on & on for pages & pages about this subject. At 71, in 3 wks. having sailed these waters for 20 years, I would not do - what you are - "pondering an idea" etc etc.

Now to a side issue. With the strength of the AUD $, why wouldn't you 'go to windward @ 600 plus kts (in a big shinny jet) buy a yacht in SE Asia - - where there are 1000's of yachts for sale @ great savings - & then use the money & time saved to enjoy cruising one of the worlds best cruising grounds????? I'll leave you to ponder your future path & wish you all well. Ciao, james

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Old 01-26-2011, 10:49 AM   #5
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Hi Mike,

Have you been watching the weather over the pacific at this time? I've never seen so many cyclones. These are like jokers in a pack of cards, you never know where they will head. If you get caught .................................................. .................................................. ...............

Seems the weather is indeed changing so maybe a bit of extra care about which times are safe might be a good idea. I believe winter and autumn are safe.
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Old 01-26-2011, 01:55 PM   #6
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Before we left the US to go cruising my greatest concern was heavy weather, and I was almost obsessive about my research. My understanding of weather systems is no better than the average cruiser, but I accumulated as many tools as I could to help me get a feel for it. One helpful tool was plotting hurricane/cyclone tracks. For your area, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology offers two tracking maps, See Here Not that this will make you an expert - it won't - but it will help you understand just how difficult it is to predict where a cyclone will travel, or even if/when one will form. My hard-earned knowledge of Atlantic tropical cyclones was useless in the South Pacific, and as I learned more about S. Pacific cyclones, it didn't help me with storm systems around Australia.

There are no safe havens around Torres Strait. Well, we didn't find any. Darwin hasn't been flattened more than four or five times by tropical cyclones, but would you want to be there, or have your boat traversing that area, when a monster cyclone does hit Darwin again?

A bit of a long way around commenting on crew that are highly qualified sailors not experienced in Australian waters. One thing I learned in all these years of cruising in the tropics is that it's not simply the wind that one needs to be concerned about. I watched a stone breakwater and fuel dock tossed around like children's toys when a huge storm surge without any wind came into a bay in the Caribbean. The seas were raised by a strong hurricane which never made it to land but created a significant amount of damage just with the huge surge. You can read a bit more about this for Australian waters here: Storm Surge

And here's WikiPedia's information on cyclone season in Oz: 2010 Cyclone Season prediction

Fair winds,

j
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Old 01-28-2011, 01:08 AM   #7
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Before we left the US to go cruising my greatest concern was heavy weather, and I was almost obsessive about my research. My understanding of weather systems is no better than the average cruiser, but I accumulated as many tools as I could to help me get a feel for it. One helpful tool was plotting hurricane/cyclone tracks. For your area, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology offers two tracking maps, See Here Not that this will make you an expert - it won't - but it will help you understand just how difficult it is to predict where a cyclone will travel, or even if/when one will form. My hard-earned knowledge of Atlantic tropical cyclones was useless in the South Pacific, and as I learned more about S. Pacific cyclones, it didn't help me with storm systems around Australia.

There are no safe havens around Torres Strait. Well, we didn't find any. Darwin hasn't been flattened more than four or five times by tropical cyclones, but would you want to be there, or have your boat traversing that area, when a monster cyclone does hit Darwin again?

A bit of a long way around commenting on crew that are highly qualified sailors not experienced in Australian waters. One thing I learned in all these years of cruising in the tropics is that it's not simply the wind that one needs to be concerned about. I watched a stone breakwater and fuel dock tossed around like children's toys when a huge storm surge without any wind came into a bay in the Caribbean. The seas were raised by a strong hurricane which never made it to land but created a significant amount of damage just with the huge surge. You can read a bit more about this for Australian waters here: Storm Surge

And here's WikiPedia's information on cyclone season in Oz: 2010 Cyclone Season prediction

Fair winds,

j
G'day you two & MV Watermelon. If I could vote a 10 for your advice above I'd do it quickly. All of us can & I hope will learn from your experience & knowledge. Thank You both. Now to the point.

MIKE ROGERS Please, a thousand times please listen to what has been said to you. It may save you life. The e-mail you sent me should be put up here so others can learn. IMHO. It was you who said 'cruise the Queensland coast during the cyclone season' not me. So - let us say a cruising yacht leaves Sydney heading for Brisbane - that's 6 to 8 days in a quick cruising yacht - only at the proper time of the year.Best I've ever done in 6 Syd to Bris races was 5 days in a 'crack' ocean racer. Not sailing into a 'cyclone watch area', that's like 8 to 12 days. Then from Brisbane to Townsville or Cairns (weather permitting) That's twice as far - let's say 16 to 20 days. Then Twnsvle/Cairns to Darwin that's 12 to 18 days. Then Darwin to Ambon that's 4 to 6 days. These times do not allow for time in port to provision & repair so add another 2 to 5 days in each port.

Now let's take your comment - "I've been estimating that a 40' should be able to average about 130 to 140 miles a day". Interesting hypothesis but overly optimistic I suggest. First a reality check here. The Sydney to Hobart race (by very experienced 6 to 9 person crew) is 630 ks approx & takes the average 40' five (5) whole days of very intensive minute by minutes hard racing. That's 125 miles/day by a full-on, light-weight, finely-tuned, experienced racing crew who have spent at least a year getting the yacht wound-up in 'over-drive' c/w new sails & all the go-go gear money can buy. So let us now say an older, not so competitive cruising boat, over-loaded, with many less crew, older & suspect gear, that without doubt doesn't go to windward very well (which 85% of you voyage will be), not being optimized (boat speed wise) every nano-second, sailing UP the East Coast against the Eastern Australian current (which by the way flows South at up to 6 kts), add to this that you're sailing into cyclone 'watch' areas in adverse conditions. So in the hard light of reality your 'speed made good - over the ground' will be more likely be 100 miles per day. Anything over that should be considered as a bonus. So with everything going for you it might take as little as 48 days approx but it will probably take closer to 70 plus days. You still haven't counted in the time to get said yacht - up to scratch for such a voyage & that will take well over 3 months to do it properly. In these 'forums' there is SV Gallivanters a Hylas 49' - round the world yacht who has sailed into Sydney. Why don't you contact him & talk. There are several yachting owners some of whom are highly qualified commercial ocean going persons that you should listen to before committing to such a voyage. IMHO

Mike - you still haven't let us know what experience you have. Problem there? Last comment is - why not work for the extra 3 to 5 months - save the money, fly to Asia & buy a yacht at very favorable dollar value. Big, shinny jets go to windward at 650 kph, don't break yachting gear, are very comfortable & dry & you can order a drink of your choice.

Sorry to ramble on to everyone out there. Ciao, james

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Old 01-28-2011, 03:16 AM   #8
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Don't worry James, we won't be doing anthing silly! In fact we are a long way from doing any sailing at all - these are just early ponderings of mine..

Good points about the Sydney to Hobart boats. They are indeed very well prepared and raced - but then they are often beating into southerlies and serious swell. I took my 130-140 mile a day estimate from another comment somewhere - perhaps on another site (and I ignored the Eastern Aust current because this will be a return trip - but I appreciate the trip north, especially to Brisbane can be slow).

My experience is not extensive but I won't be sailing this leg - I'm really just wondering whether it is feasible.. And your suggestion of buying in Asia is definately an option under consideration.

Thanks again for your advice. Cheers, Mike.
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Old 05-31-2011, 12:02 AM   #9
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I cruised that area last year for 3 months when a cyclone formed and came ashore in the Whitsundays. We were south of it on Lady Musgrave Island and went into Gladstone to wait it out. There is really good daily weather forecasting by the Australian government and a lot of protected ports near the reef. If the storm is significant and comes right over you, you're in for a very long night and you had surely better be inside the breakwater. There were 2 or 3 boats that were destroyed but they were outside the breakwater. It was a Class 2 cyclone if I remember correctly.
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Old 06-02-2011, 10:01 AM   #10
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HI, in answer to your original question, yes you can cruise QLD during cyclone season. The first thing you need to be aware of is that the prevailing SE winds drop out during the cyclone season, or alternatively, they come in light from a northerly direction. So there's a good chance that you'll find glassy sea conditions - which of course are terrific when you're at anchorage, but not so good if you're trying to out run a pending storm. I live in north QLD and notice the distinct lack of boating traffic during this time, msotly I suspect because there's good boating to be had in southern Aust during the summer (which is when the cyclone season happens in the north).
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Old 04-30-2012, 02:43 PM   #11
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Cyclone Yasi in Jan of 2011 wiped out the marina in Cardwell, Dunk Island is still off limits, the resort there destroyed. There are no safe cyclone anchorages north of Port Douglas and those south are only moderately safe and far and few between if a cyclone is near. Each port has cyclone management plans in place. I live in Port Douglas and have sailed the Queensland coast extensively for many years but I dont venture far from my bolt hole during cyclone season. I am planning a trip to the Torres Straights later this year but you can bet your bottom dollar I will be back here by about mid November. Its easy to get caught with your pants down up here, even with loads of 'local' experience.

On the 30th of August,2010, I lost my sailing cat in a storm way less than a cyclone off the mouth of the Burdekin River south of Townsville. I had updated weather reports at 8am, had charts and a GPS and by 2pm everything had changed, hit by a freak localised storm pushed onto sand bars on the southern side of the river that wernt supposed to be there, about a nautical mile off shore and by 4pm was getting picked up by the rescue helicopter.

Please listen to all the good advice here but still take all the care you can as the tropics can bite hard almost anytime.

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