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"Cruise USA to Australia"



I bought "Illusion lll" an Irwin Citation 39 through the internet. The contact was closed in November 1996.

I had found several suitable yachts listed on-line using

Soundings at

Boat Trader at

Yacht World at


Autopedia at

I prepared a short list and contacted seller by phone or e-mail and eventually I narrowed the list of boats down to a few boats.  I  then called for volunteer from mailing lists like Yacht-L.  E-mail colleagues  who lived near each of the boats volunteered   to take a preliminary look on my behalf.  I had assistance from  several individuals I had met through mailing lists like "Yacht-L" at http://PObox.LeidenUniv.NL/~kooi/yl.htm and "World Cruising at .

I was concerned to see if the boats really existed and was worth further consideration. I was worried  someone might be advertising a boat for sale with lots of lovely photos and then accepting a deposit when the boat really did not exist or was a complete wreck. I was lucky to find helpers some actually sent me photos and one sent a video of a prospective boat.

With this help I narrowed my list further to what I felt were genuine possibilities. I then paid for marine surveys using surveyors from the National Association of Marine Surveyors. Their membership list is at I was able to get surveyors to do preliminary examinations before deciding on my first choice. Eventually I decided on "Illusion" an Irwin Citation 39 in Bridgeport CT. I then obtained a full survey. This was required for both  my own use and for insurance purposes.

The survey resulting list of recommended repairs that was very useful in my later preparations and I was lucky in that my surveyor had spent a few years cruising the Pacific on a sailboat with his young family and really knew what I needed to know.

"Illusion " as I found her at Captain's Cove

I placed a deposit on the boat while I was still in Australia and did not see the boat in the "flesh" until six months later when was able to get away from work. When I eventually saw the boat I was pleasantly surprised at its finish. Certainly it was better than I had hoped. The earliest I could get away was November, just as winter was starting in CT. I would have liked to have done some preliminary work on the boat at that time then taken it South to a warmer climate where I could complete the work at my leisure. But I was not fast enough in doing preliminary repairs, by the end of November I had –25 C outside temperatures and I was still waiting on engine parts and other bit and pieces. So I had to leve the boat on the hard stand at n "Captain Cove Marina" in Bridgeport and returned to Australia. I planned to return when the weather warmed up in spring.

"Illusion" in November
I had a fairly tight time frame for my trip to Australia. I wanted to get the boat to Australia in one year. This meant leaving CT in early spring so as to get through the Caribbean and arrive at Panama before the hurricane season started in June. This was not just because I was chicken but also because of provisions in my insurance policy from Blue Water Insurance. ( ) Once through Panama I then had to reach Australia before November to avoid the Southern Pacific cyclone season

This meant getting away as early as possible in spring. Captain Cove ‘s said they usually only put boats in the water in May but they would accommodate me at any time so long as they did not have to break ice to get the boat launched. The earliest time yachts start sailing on Long Island Sound seemed to be May. But I decided that April would be a safe bet.

After my summer in Oz I arrive back at Captain Cove in March to recommence work.
Captain Coves Marina was a lovely place to be caught up. It is a marine facility similar to Mystic a little further north in CT

The Marina at Captain's Cove
Some of the Many Recreated Marine Buildings at Captain's Cove Bridgeport, CT

Captain's Cove has a fascinating location.  It is 50 mile from NY and one entry opens to the very lovely commuter suburb of Fairfield with beautiful expensive houses and tree lined streets.

                                                                    A Fairfield Street

The other gate opens on the “village” area of Bridgeport which is a rundown poor area. Some of the houses in the village are one time mansions now divided into apartments or rooming houses. A local policeman said to me when I was living on "Illusion" "don't go out that gate it not safe in the village"

The Bridgeport "Village"

The weather was really nice and fine albeit cold. (-10C etc.). To replace the standing rigging I had to get the mast taken down. The yard used a big mobile crane and I stored the mast on deck. I then got new rigging made up by a local rigger but put it aside until the mast was to re-installed when the boat was  being  launched. I had ordered new up to date electronics (e.g. GPS, SSB/HF, Globe wireless access and weather fax soft ware) from the Fairfield branch of West Marine. All of this was waiting for me on my return. All the guys at West Marine took an interest in my preparations and visited the boat to see my progress,  I also purchased a second hand 6-man life raft from Ocean Outfitters. I had located a suitable raft through their home page and organized it to be serviced by Air_Works (410-268 7332) It turned out that Air-Works had in fact serviced that raft since new. I added extra safeties to bring “Illusion” up to IYRU Cat 1 including a 406 EPIRB and a hand held VHF. I serviced the diesel and made all other repairs as recommended by the marine survey. I made sure I had back up material for all important systems and replacement parts for anything likely to fail. e.g. filters, impellers, belts, and alternator regulators. I also had the alternator and starter motors rebuilt. I added manual water pumps to back up the pressurized system, replaced a lot of the wiring; particularly the main battery cables. I installed a 100 Amp hr. engine crank battery so that the original two 100 amp hr. batteries could be reserved as house batteries. I added a 12-volt 1 cubic meter refrigeration kit to the icebox and a 4.5 Amp solar panel. I had all the sails repaired and had extra stitching applied to strengthen the sails.

My plans to leave were thwarted because  Easter 1997 turned out to be one of the coldest on record. CT had the biggest snowfall for the year that weekend. I would have been easier to leave Bridgeport in March or February. Anyway despite ice in the harbor on April 13th "Illusion III" was launched.

Bye Bye Bridgeport

Provisioning: I had been advised to buy most of my needs in Panama but my observations indicated US food prices were as cheap as any were. I opened an account with JB’s bulk store and purchased $2000 with of groceries. I had planned on provisioning for a compliment of four and a trip lasting 12 months. I left flour and rice to be purchased en route as they are usually cheap everywhere. I planned not to use the refrigeration system except in harbor and relied mostly on canned, dried and preserved goods. It was surprising how these two carloads of food could be packed away inboard “Illusion”. My son’s girlfriend Anna who had joined me in April from Australia prepared an inventory with a location guide so we could find anything we needed later.

The route planed had included passing down Long Island sound to New York; Passing through Hell’s Gate and East River into New York Harbor then into the Atlantic. I timed our departure so we could arrive at Hell’s gate at slack water. This was at 10 pm so we sailed past the spectacular skyscrapers and under the big bridges and past the Statue of Liberty in the dark. All buildings were lit up against the night sky. It was beautiful reaching sail with mild winds even though still a bit cold. 
East River

From New York I wanted to sail along the coast with minimum stops to make southing ASAP. However the advice I received from the mailing lists suggested I should at least go inland past Cape Hatteras. This meant using a section of the Intra-coastal Waterway from Norfolk, Virginia to Beaufort, North Carolina. (See I could also have gone inland at Ballimore Bay and then via Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk if the Atlantic had blown up unexpectedly.

ntracoastal-waterway.jpgIntracoastal Waterway

The Atlantic trip to Norfolk was quite eventful as it turned out and I ended up spending quite a few days there making repairs. I chose to go straight from NY to Norfolk  rather than via Chesapeake Bay to save time. From Norfolk I planned to stay inland and go via the lovely Dismal Swamp Canal to Elizabeth City then across the Albemarle and Palmilco Sounds to Beaufort. NC. I would have liked time to have sail over to Hatteras in the Palmico Sound to see were the sailing part of the pseudo Olympic games were staged when the Moscow Olympics were boycotted. That is where John Bertrand (later winner of the Americas Cup) represented Australia in flying Dutchmen. At home I knew his crew member Geoff Burn. However there was not enough draft or room under a bridge to go that way to Beaufort so we had to stitch to the ICW. From Beaufort NC I wanted to sail outside to Ft. Lauderdale in Florida, and then leave the USA for the Bahamas followed by Jamaica => Colombia => Panama => Ecuador => Galapagos => Marquises =>Tahiti => Rarotonga => Fiji => Vanuatu => Noumea => Norfolk IS => Lord How Is. => Eden => Australia .

Things did not quite go as planned.

The Trip to Norfolk

I had four crew when I left Bridgeport CT, two young guys and one young lady (Anna) plus a young 50 year old, Roger Wood who was helping from just from Ct. to Norfolk. To organize crew I had collected names of prospective crew over a year of during my preliminary preparations back in Australia. I had advertised on the internet at locations like "International Crew Finders" and "Float Plan" at and "Cruiser Connections" at  This gave me over 200 inquiries that I ranked according to offshore experience or long trip experience. I ended up with 3 guys and one woman. The lady was my son’s girlfriend who was keen to experience what my son had done when he sailed in the Europa rally a few years earlier. All on my list had lots of experience and appeared as keen as mustard. I also had a back up list of replacement. When I arrived in CT. I was wanted to meet some of the guys who lived in USA but they all vanished into thin air. All had last minute engagements or some reason to pull out, . In the end an e-mail friend who had looked at "Illusion" for me a year earlier volunteered to sail to Oz with me and one guy off my backup list agreed to come. Then to help get started Roger another e-mail friend offered to sail as far as his hometown of Norfolk. He would provide local knowledge for the entry to Chesapeake Bay and Norfolk Harbor.  Anna was organised to fly over from Australia a month or so before the departure date.

Bye-Bye New York


We left New York by midnight with a freshening south wind so we tacked down the New Jersey coast, but by the time we got to the entrance to Chesapeake Bay near Norfolk we had high sea and a westerly of about 35 to 40 Kt. Just at the time when we needed to motor against the wind in to Chesapeake the engine failed. We were unable to sail into Chesapeake due to the current, wind and seas. So we tacked back and forward across the entrance about for 24 hr. x waiting for conditions to abate. I was prepared to hang around out there for another couple of days but the crew were getting restless and Roger had be unable to sleep.

So We sailed back North to the Baltimore Bay where the entrance is much easier to navigate.



Baltimore River was only 200 km north of the  Norfolk but the weather was completely different. We tied up to a jetty in Breakwater Harbour and had a good rest. I tried starting the engine but it could not complete a full rotation clockwise or anticlockwise. Something was jammed inside. After 24 hrs the weather forecast was for fine weather so we sailed south again, but the wind at the Chesapeake entrance was still unchanged. We tacked back and forth to see if we could get closer to the entrance but the wind and tide was too difficult to manage the passage through the narrow gap in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel So I thought what the heck I’ll see if I can get a tow in. I had cruising guides that advertised towing services but they were very expensive for a two hr tow.

I had notified the coast guard of our situation and updated them every two hours. Eventually I asked them if they could recommend a towing agent and to my delight they offered to tow us in for free.

Eventually a 60ft Coast guard cutter arrived and towed us into Chesapeake. While under tow heading toward the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel a big black submarine surface next to us travelling in the same direction. Inside the bay the cutter transferred our lines to a 40 UTB that towed us to Willoughby Harbor Marina in Norfolk. 



After the usual inspection we settled down to a good rest. Next day I knocked the head off the diesel and found that a valve seat had broken and fallen into a cylinder so that the piston could not complete it stoke cycle. The marina people had a good workshop and they allowed me to use their equipment. I had the head tested and found it was cracked. I had to wait two weeks for a new head complete with valves and complete top end to be delivered.


It was a pleasant place to stay and we had a good view of the navy ships coming and going across the river at the naval base.

The Intracoastal Water Way

From Norfolk we started the ICW using the Dismal Swamp Canal.

                                            A bridge opening along the Dismal Swamp Canal

There are two alternate routes at the north end of the Atlantic ICW between the Chesapeake Bay and Albemarle Sound, The Dismal Swamp Canal and the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal. The canals and the rest of the waterway are maintained and cared for by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. these two canals  contain the only locks along the AICW

The Dismal Swamp Canal is maintained with a 6’ draft but at times it can be shallower. The locks operate to a schedule of opening times 8:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m which means you have to  keep am eye on your time table.  The Albemarle Canal on the other hand is maintained to a depth of 12’ and the locks open every hour from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and on demand after 7:00 pm. But there is considerably more commercial traffic on the Albemarle Canal and the Dismal Swamp Canal was reported to be far more picturesque



We had to be at the fist lock at first opening so as to allow time to reach the other end before the last opening of the last lock. Although Boats can anchor or moor overnight in canal there are limited tie-up facilities so we chose to do the entire length on one go.

There was nowhere to stay overnight along the canal so after the last lock of the Dismal Swamp Canal we were very happy to tie up at the complimentary birth at the Mariner's Wharf city docks in Elizabeth City and receive the hospitality of the Rose Buddies.




As well as the free birth we, along with other cruisers, were pampered with a free wine and cheese on the harbour side and were welcomed by the mayor and chief Buddy Fred Fearing in a tent set up on the jetty.  Apart from the pleasantries provided the free birth was most welcome. Unlike Australia nearly every tie-up we found in USA had some cost involved. If we pulled into a fuelling dock late at night we were sometimes able to stay there over night after refuelling.
I had planned to leave the AICW at Beaufort buit The weather continued to turn bad every time I thought of leaving the ICW. This resulted in us motoring all the way from Norfolk to Ft Lauderdale. Navigation marks were not easy to find of and the shallow cahenel made it impossible to travel at night along the ICW this meant  stopping each night and travelling a lot further than the direct outside route would have been. This added  two weeks on the trip plus I lost two weeks repairing the engine in Norfolk and a week repairing a broken centre board in Beaufort NC.


After Elizabeth City we headed down the Pasquotank River to Albemarle Sound

Then across the sound we were able to hoist sail and rest the motor for a while heading for the Alligator river. This require tacking against the ever present head wind. I had hoped to finf North East trade winds to carry us down the east coast but so far we had experience head winds from the South every day. Going aground was not an unusual occurance along the ICW because the channel markers did not indicate where the deepest part of the channel occured. So there was quite  a lot of guess work in finding the best course.

Putting out the anchor and winching the boat into deeper became part of the normal routine. On a couple of occasions we had the added complication of ropes from crayfish pots tangled in out propellar.

From the Alligator River we entered the Alligator-Pungo canal at Winn Bay NC The canal passed through largely farming lands in NC down to Pungo River. We then entered the   Pamlico River and Pamlico Sound.


Again we were able to hoist sail and sail along the coast of Pamilco Sound to reach Neuse River. Down the Neuse River we sailed to reach the section of canal leading to Beaufort SC on entering canal we ran aground with the centre boards down snapping it off and jamming the boards in the slot. After some snorkling and winching we got underway and motored to Bock Marine just south of the Core Creek high-rise bridge in Beaufort, NC

Bock Marine

We hauled out “Illusion” and the staff at Bock Marine were able to fix the fibre glass centre board within a couple of days then we continued down the ICW to Beaufort Yacht Club in North Carolina. The Beaufort Inlet was our first possibility for heading back into the Altantic.


There were three possibilities for heading further south. 1) The outside rout heading direct for the Abaco in the Bahamas. This required passing east of the Gulf Stream. 2) Coastal hopping staying West of the GS and allowing the possibility of re-entering the ICW at one of the 24/7 main seaport entrances along the way or 3) stay in the “ditch’ all the way to Florida. In the end the weather made the choice for me. The wind remained firmly in the South so we continued along the ICW. From Beaufort/Morehead City NC the ditch remained close to the coast. From North Carolina through South Carolina was pleasant travelling. Lovely views and beautiful mansions here and there. We passed through Beaufort SC which was an alternative departure pint for a direct sail to Abaco. An interesting point is that in South Carolina town of Beaufort is pronounced “Bewfort’, as in beautiful, but Beaufort North Carolina it is pronounced “Bofort”.

Beaufort NC

The last harbour in South Carolina we stay at was Hilton Head a beautiful peaceful anchorage. 


Hilton Head Marina


At savannah,we then entered Georgia, I had read in ICW guides that the canals were often very shallow in the Georgia region. Unlike travelling in rivers and bays where you sail from one bouy to the next in this part of the waterway you have to keep well way from the canal markers because they are set well out from the deep part of the channel.We had to anchor in the canal some nights because tie-up where often to far apart  to suit our travel schedule. We basically progressed at 10 mph from 7 am to 8 pm breakfast and other meals was taken when underway. Leaving in spring we were one of a very few boats going South. All the traffic was travelling north to avoid the Hurricane season. Anchoring in the canal had dangers because some local motor boats continued throughout the night. This meant we had to find isolated deep spots off the main thoroughfare

icw georgia.jpg


In Georgia lot of the ICW  passed through flat swampy areas they it “The Low Country”. It is mostly grass and water with some occasional trees


georgia ICW.jpg

ICW Georgia


When we arrived in Florida we expected to see bright sunny warm days but like most of our trip south it was cold and wet. But at least the waterway was wide straight and deep making navigation so much easier than we had experience so far.

Along much of the Fl.ICW there were very large luxury houses. Well appointed marina

and beautiful well manicured parkland.


fl icw.jpg



Before leaving the USA one of the male crew decided not to continue.
The trip through the Bahamas was delightful beautiful blue water and the islands friendly and charming. We went first to Bimini then Cat key, Chub Key, Nassau, George Town and finally Mathew Town. The wind was on the nose all the way so we motored nearly the whole Bahamanian tour. I then sailed direct to Panama. On the way I had trouble with the prop shaft connection to the gearbox, the alternator regulator and the alternator. The latter two had been new

. In Panama the remaining crew departed and I wasted three weeks trying to organize replacements. I felt worried about clearing customs and organizing my passage through the canal. I had been advised to contact an agent to organize it all for me. It was estimated to cost about $200 for the service. In the end I decided to try and do it myself. When we arrived on Saturday I found a Taxi driver Carlos Solano "Unidad 2" (445-1240) who offered to take me around all the required offices. He did so and also acted as an interpreter and even went off to purchase stamps for me.  The whole job was done in half a day and Carlos only charged $50 for his service and taxi.
I tide up at the Panama Canal Yacht Club marina and the facilities although old and dilapidated were functional friendly and provided good service.

While Colon was a bit intimidating I enjoyed a trip to Portobello to see the Historic Spanish fort and slave market. The largely black community were not the wealthiest and crime was threatening at all times. A visit to the Open City gave a chance to spend up on duty free goods.

To get through the canal I needed four rope handlers I still had two crew but needed two more. Local agents wanted $50 each. Luckily for me there was a New Zealand boat waiting to go through at the same time as us.  We agreed to pool resorses and We when along with him as his crew. We had to be at the first lock at 6.00pm and arrived at Belboa before night. After dinner at the Belboa YC we caught a bus home that night.

Next day It was my turn. Barbara and Vince  from "Tera Moam" bussed it down to help We set of early for a rerun of the canal crossing. Arriving at the Gatun locks at 5.30 AM. Although we were required to have four rope handlers we were tide up to a large motor yacht and did not have to touch a canal line for the whole crossing.

Trying up to a 100' Motor Yacht
The Canal people charged me $500 to get through the canal. That would not have paid the fee of the pilot we had to have aboard. They can only make it pay by putting yachts in behind big ships that make the operation of the lock profitable.
It was a bit disconcerting to be tide up behind a 1000' container ship.

Entering the 1st Lock on Panama Canal Lock

It took Three locks to lifted the ship and yachts 85' . You can see live images of the Panama Canal operating this very moment by looking at this Link

Once we left the top lock we had 50 ml to motor though the lakes before reaching the locks on the Pacific Ocean side

WE were able to do the trip in plenty of time as we "Illusion can motor at >9kts..
After leaving the Miraflores Locks it was a short run to Belboa Yacht Club. This took us under the "American Bridge" built be Germans to connect South America with North America. Part of the Pan American Highway

American Bridge

Belboa Yacht Club was a similarly run down old building but it provided very good facilities to cruisers

It is burnt down now but the club still provides facilities to cruisers. Boats tie up to swinging moorings and a 24 hr work boat ferries crew ashore on demand. ( blowing a horn etc.)
Belboa was a big change from Colon being a modern city. I walked around with out feeling too concerned for safety

Panama City (New Area)

Although I was a not so happy in the old part of town:

Although the dilapidated building looked to me a wonderful place to start renovating.

Belboa is a town in the Canal Zone and is very pleasant:

Belboa Township

I really enjoyed Panama. I Tried to find crew using the internet and tried to get one person who was planning to join me in Ecuador to change and come to Panama . Penny agreed to change her plans so I waited for her to arrive I had notices on the YC notice board. There were many such notices and people often check in to see if crew vacancies exist. Not many wanted to go to Australia. I discussed it with a few but not many wanted to spend sop long at sea. The crossing to French Polynesia could take 25 to 45 days

Eventually I set of   for Ecuador with an Australian young married couple who were  backpacking around South and Central America.  together with  my new lady crew member.
It was 1000 mls to Salinas in Ecuador and the wind blows on the nose all the way. So we were motoring again.
Salinas is a play ground for the rich of Ecuador with beautiful beaches. However you don't have to go far inland to see poor living conditions

Salinas Foreshore

THe back packers left to continue there travels and I met a new prospective crewman from the USA. a 70 yo retied English professor. He and penny went off for a few days traveling inland while I worked on the boat.

I slipped the boat at Salinas Yacht club for inspection and antifouling. I found that the coupling between the Gear box and the prop shaft was nearly worn through. I had to drop the rudder and extract the shaft to get it welded. I was lucky to find good trades men who reconstructed the shaft and the attachment flange for $100.
I also found that the center-board had broken off. I had repaired it back in Beaufort NC. I remembered hearing a bang while passing through the Windward Passage. that I thought may have been a big fish. That must have been the end of the center-board.
I mad a plan and got the engineers who had fixed the prop shaft to fabricate a steel board. I hoped it might last a bit longer than the old fiber glass one. The belt on the Auto helm had broken on the way down but with plenty of crew it had not caused a concern. I had three spare belt but I found that none of then fitted. So I ordered 5 new belts from West Marine. They shipped it down to Ecuador by air freight. However I had to weight week to get it through customs.

I lost several weeks in the US, Panama and in Equator making repairs or trying to get crew together. I was worried about making to Australia before the start of the cyclone season in November. So I decided to skip the Galapagos Isds.

When I told Penny and the Professor this and that we would have to keep moving and not have much time to sight see in the Pacific islands they decided it was not what they wanted and flew to the Galapagos instead.
I chased crew through the Internet again and  looking for replacements.  I had one Spanish guy from a Salinas night club who was interested. I waited three week while he waited for his partner to return from Spain. But in the end he decided to buy another business instead. So as no new crew eventuated I eventually set of solo for French Polynesia

I had not sailed solo over a long distance before. I had only done a couple of short afternoon races solo. I had not intended to sail this time alone either. I just got fed up trying to organize crew. . In the end I just went on regardless .I was not worried about my sailing ability but I had heard stories of people going bonkers when so long alone. I had not been alone for much before on land or at sea. Salinas to Marquises was  3500 mls. and could take 25 to 35 days.  I had done several ocean races in Australia, but nothing over 700 mls. and always on my fully crewed yacht.

It took only 25 days to the Marquises and I quite enjoyed the solo trip. I manage to avoid loneliness by maintaining a firm schedule of watch keeping. Log maintenance, and radio listening. I could hear south Bound for over 1000 mls into the Pacific. I grew very fond of broadcasts from the BBC, ABC and Radio NZ. The V of A left a lot to be desired. Even Voice of the Andes was more interesting. I had one contact with a yacht in Caribbean Colombia, but generally I could not get two way radio contact until I was nearly in French Polynesia. Then I contacted Toupo Marine in NZ. I was not able to get the French to talk to me from Mahena Radio even when on their doorstep.

Next trip I would like to get a HAM  license as I could always pick up 13300 etc. in the Eastern Pacific. This would have been useful as  the marine nets such as Foxy 2 and Russell Radio were too far away or at the wrong time of the day for prorogation.
The biggest difficulty I had was the first 200 ml out of Ecuador. Because the coast is lined with mile and miles of gill net. This required dodging and weaving through the boys and light that use naked flames at night. Just out of Salinas the new Autohelm belt I had purchased in Salinas started slipping on the drum. I though I was going to have to hand steer all the way. I was rescued by the cruising sailors best friend "duct tape" I double a length of tape over so that the sick side was out on both sides. I wrapped this around the drum and "hey presto" the belt stopped slipping. That lasted all the way to Oz.

My Irwin Citation 39 was in very good nick. I had replaced rigging, sheets, got sails restitched. reconditioned the engine electrics and injectors., replace most of the exhaust system. and install gear for long range cruising such as: life raft. sea anchor, storm anchor, GPS, SSB/HF and purchased a spare autohelm and a lot of spares for just about every thing. I had brought from Australia some spare sails, storm sails and safety gear to bring it up to Cat 1 (IYRU). My problems on the trip were mainly mechanical (engine related) or crew finding / keeping.
I know now why most of the cruisers one meet along the way are couples or singles. Not having an after cockpit meant the boat had plenty of room in the saloon. A very roomy comfy boat for its size. Having roller furling headsail and autohelm made sailing solo a breeze. I did the main sail reefing from the mast. I slept in the cockpit so as to be quickly available to work to boat. A benefit of the large cockpit. I had a look around every 30 min at least. It takes that long for a ship to come over the horizon to the yacht. So I "slept all day in the cockpit and any had to sit up to look around.
 But I never saw any ships from Ecuador to Oz. over 7000 mls.

I fist sited The Marqueses as a large high mountainous island 24 hrs before land fall. 50 ml. out I landed at Nuka Hiva in Taiohae Bay. After clearing in at the police station, I when to the Keilkahanni Inn in Nuka Hiva a steep climb up a made road the a lovely building over looking the bay. My legs were not used to so much exercise after so long on the boat. In the Keilkahanni Inn
they maintain a log of visiting yachts . It is a must to read through and add one name to the old list. I was the only visiting yacht at that time. Every one else had been and gone months before.

Nuka  Hiva                                               Taiohae Bay
Read more about Marqueses at

From the Marqueses I sailed 1000 mls to Papette This required passing through the Tuamotu Archipelago a collection of low atolls that are not visible until a few miles away. Many atolls have extensive reefs that could reach out to a yacht before an atoll is visible

Rangiroa the Largest Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago

I wanted to arrive at day break so I had a chance of seeing what was there so I set a course that would do just that. The GPS put me in the correct place and I sailed through past Rangiroa and on to Tahiti.

Papeete Harbor tied up at Techni Marine

For information about Tahiti Harbours see

Papeete Port

I was contacted in the Maqueses by a member of my yacht club to say a member wanted to meet me in Tahiti. So I waited a  in Tahiti for few days while Ben arrived by plane from Oz. I cleared customs and tied up at the quay-side.

Quay-side at Papeete

As soon as be arrived we departed and headed for Moorea island not far from Tahiti just a days motoring. There was anchored on Cooks bay

Cooks Bay Moorea

This is a beautiful bay and we shred the anchorage with a Club Med sailing Cruise Liner

Cook's Bay

We had already cleared customs for French Polynesia so we only stayed on night at Mooria Is.
As we were motoring out of Cook's bay the diesel through a. big end. The wind was on the nose as usual I I had to drop anchor and weight for the wind to change. Three hors later we were able to tack out of the reef entrance. and headed back to Tahiti. Only a few hours n but we arrived at dusk. the wind on the nose as always I had to take in through the reef. Eventually in near dark we dropped anchor off  Techni Marine on the opposite side of Papeete Bay from the Quay.
Bernard and others at Techni marine could not have been more helpful.
They did not mind me being a DIY and let me pull the engine out and dismantle it. They gave what ever help they could when asked. I thought I might just have to replace the big ends or even get the crank shaft reground and it would only be a few days. But that was not to be. The crank shaft was to badly scored and I had to order a new one from the USA. That took weeks.
Ben was not able to weight that long so after 3 or 4 weeks he flew home. I advertised in the local French news paper for crew and picked up a young French pearl diver who was happy to visit Australia on his way home to France.

So in the 31st of October I left Papeete , The last day visitors were allow to be there. due to the onset of the cyclone season.
We set off direct to Tonga about 1000 mls. This time with a little bit of wind from the correct direction. Only this time it got stronger and stronger. I had cyclone Martin heading my way. It was quite rough with winds > 40 Kts. My new crew took to his cot and was not seen again until we arrived in Tonga. The cyclone passed 200 ml away and went on to do a lot of damage in French Polynesia.

When my engine parts took so long to arrive I had toyed with the idea of sailing from Tahiti with out an engine. But when I arrived at Tonga my land fall was Nuku'alofa (a welcome sit) I was glad I had the functioning engine. The channel into Tongatapu Island was very complicated and took hours of motoring through a narrow passages in many  reefs.
Once in the marina at Nuku'alofa I was able to relax. My crew too off like a shot. straight for the airport and back to Papeete.

I  stayed a week in Tonga. I had a good time and made a few friends more with the expatiate Aussies than the mainly USA cruisers in the harbor.  No crew again. A local taxi driver had many local contacts and a few Tongans volunteered to sail to Australia but none could get a visa. One chief offered my a lovely young lady to take as a companion. Being single in more ways than one I was tempted. But like many Tongans she was much bigger than me and I was too intimidated.

There was no wind on the forecast. Yachts on the radio net reported motoring most of the way to New Zealand. So I filled up with diesel and took off. 2500 mls to Sydney. Little  wind  so I motor sailed most of the way. I was concerned to get through the area while conditions were calm. The area has a bad reputation and many yachts have been lost going or coming between  NZ and Tonga. a few days out and I received news of a deepening depression near New Caledonia. If that became a cyclone it would have headed straight for me. so motor motor motor. I tried to make as much Southing as possible to cooler water. This meant missing Norfolk Island. I kept going and eventually the depression petered out and I made my landfall at Eden in New South Wales.
If ever I buy a boat with an after cabin it will have to that much longer than "Illusion III" because I would want to keep the same size main saloon and cockpit. I had big following sea a lot of the time and a lot of fine reaching. The boat handled it nicely and the little old Autohelm 3000 did all the steering. Although I broke three belt along the way. (I will add more comments later)
I had chosen the Irwin because it was a good compromise between a performance handicap racer and a cruiser. I had been sailing "madrigal" a 34' GRP sloop displacing 6 ton with 3 ton in the keel. A boat similar to a Sparkman and Stevens S&S 34. "Madrigal" sailed very well to windward and stood up well in a storm. Unfortunately the storms don't always come when you need them or blow from the right direction. This means arriving 6-8 hrs behind the bulk of the fleet when the partying was over. I have lead the fleet on handicap in Melbourne to Hobart races for three days in strong winds and still lost when the wind died in Storm Bay at the end. The answer is a lighter bigger boat. It is easier to shorten sail than jettison ballast. The Irwin 39 is only 17000-lbw displacement, 4'6" draft, with a Centreboard to 9'6" and has 1/3 of ballast ratio. She is 1978 construction in GRP The Boat is of 19 yo .See my home page for more info. on "Illusion 111". .