It has been raining cats and dogs overnight and today looks much the same. I therefore have some time to write what may be a useful post, that not only reports on where we have been.

Some emails we have received have enquired about how the boat is performing, how we are coping with each other’s company and how we can afford this trip. So, we think that some comments on these questions will be helpful for friends thinking about a similar journey in the future.

In the two months since leaving the Pittwater in Sydney, we have logged 1,163 nautical miles to Magnetic Island, off Townsville in tropical Queensland. At 1.852 km per nm, this equates to about 2,150 km.

The boat: The Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 439 has met and exceeded our expectations. We knew that her length and wide beam/transom would be fast for downwind passage making, more so on a beam to a broad reach. We were worried about her ability to beat to windward after sailing many miles on Farr 38’s in the eighties, which were notorious for banging into the wind when close hauled. Modern yacht designs have evolved and with hard chines aft and a sharper entry forward. This results in a relatively civilised close hauled sail, influenced more by wave height and direction, which we allow for in setting our course. She is surprisingly fast and comfortable on this point of sail.

Her off the wind speed is really impressive. For her current loaded weight of about 10 tons, she starts moving well at a wind speed of about 10 – 11 knots, giving us around 6 knots speed over the ground (in a moderate 1 m swell). At about 13 -15 knots, this goes up to 7.5 – 8.5 knots SOG and at 20 – 22 knots she really flies at over 10 knots/hour. On a dead run, which it has been about 50% of the time, we pole out the jib which increases stability.

The layout of the boat is comfortable for the two of us and we have space to move about. The 54 hp Yanmar engine consumes between 2.14 and 2.73 litres of diesel per hour at 2000 rpm and runs like clockwork.

Is there anything that could be improved on? In hindsight we should have ordered a fully battened mainsail with cars for better sail shape and ease of hoisting and lowering. (Mainsail trim meister Schady is hard to please!) Although we have not had any dramas with some tight marina berths, a bow thruster would have been a sensible investment for a boat this size.

The crew: In this department we are fortunate that Annie and I have been sailing together since 1975. There are four things that constantly needs repeating on the boat:

1.) Sail hoisting/lowering. We have quickly worked out our routines, so that happens intuitively every time, without shouting. We are also not fazed by setting up the pole for a dead run or hoisting and lowering the asymmetrical spinnaker when the opportunity presents itself.

2.) Anchoring. The key here is jointly taking note of the tides, discussing it, allowing enough scope and making sure the anchor has properly set. The new SARCA Excel anchor works well and therefore we can sleep well.

3.) Docking in marinas. Always a challenge, particularly with a cross wind, but we plan and discuss this beforehand and have the routine for each of us sorted quite well by now.

4.) Steering the boat. We plot our routes beforehand, allowing for wind shifts and then each of us steer reasonably close to the planned route, using the auto pilot when required.

You have to be comfortable with each other’s company – if you constantly need conversation, you may need to have more people on board. The key to avoiding boredom is reading a lot, discussing the weather ahead and planning what to do at the next stop.

Costs: Being self-funded retirees, we have to manage expenses versus income. Annie keeps spreadsheets for everything – she loves data! Over the last two months we have had the following expenses in 6 categories:

  • Vittles (food and wine): $1,415.20
  • Diesel: $657.40
  • Berthing fees: $637.60
  • Eating out: $518.80
  • Boat equipment/maintenance: $1,367,20 (This includes a one off storm sail and outboard service)
  • Medical fund/Telstra: $650.90

This totals $5,247.10 divided by two = $2,623.55 per month.

As long as your income covers this, you are ahead. Bear in mind though that we have cancelled all our life insurance, as there are no more debts to cover (or to pay ridiculous premiums for, once you are over 65). There is only the car insurance on the little Barina.

Admittedly, there will be a few big ticket items coming up in September, when the boat insurance premium falls due and she needs to be slipped and antifouled and the engine serviced. I estimate this to be about $6,000, which when amortised over the next year, will add $500 to our monthly expenses.

So, I hope this will give our family and friends an idea of what a sailing lifestyle entails and cost. Clearly, we will have more accurate data available after 12 months.

That’s it for today. Happy hour at the pub here in the marina starts at 4pm!