This post is a long one, sharing with you the biggest thing on our mind at the moment: protecting ourselves from wild weather. So grab your beverage of choice and find a comfortable place to read this!
Current severe weather event
No sooner did we leave The Boat Works that we spent days anchored nearby in the Broadwater, unable to get off the boat, as severe weather hit southeast Queensland and northern NSW with a deluge of rain, huge seas and winds in excess of 40 knots – we saw 46 knots recorded a few times on our navigation gear and that is in the shelter of Stradbroke island. La Niña is in full swing with all this coinciding with king tides.
With the intense rain a few leaks have appeared… just when we thought we were watertight! We guess that with that sort of rainfall and wind strength, drips are to be expected. More changes of hatch seals required when the conditions improve!
In this wild weather, it is comforting to have our two screens turned on inside the cabin to monitor conditions. The Vesper (AIS) Anchor Watch on the left shows how far we are from our anchor and our track, the NKE screen on the right records wind direction, wind speed and water depth. With 65 meters of chain in 6 meters of water, we were not budging!
We motored to Paradise Point briefly to pick up our boom bag and jib from Mike Sabin at Gold Coast Sailmakers, then moved away again alongside Crab Island, to have space to swing in the strong conditions. Here is a glimpse of what the new trims look like. Mike helped us set up the boom bag. We had to wait a few days for a lull in the weather to set up the jib!
Although the wind has eased – 20 knots rather than 50 – the rain has not. The current is flowing fast around us, the water is a dirty brown with floating debris. There were flood warnings for the Coomera River with the water reaching the hard stand at the Boat Works for a while! It is not a cyclone, but it certainly is an intense weather event.
The hunt for boat insurance
As 2020 comes to a close, one issue has been worrying us: boat insurance. December is when our insurance renewal for Anui falls due and this impacts our cruising plans. In fact December 13 was D day, right in the middle of the latest wild weather!
Most people only cruise for part of the year, mooring their boat in a marina or leaving it on a hard stand for a period of time while they return to land life. We are on Anui permanently for as long as we can manage – with health and climate issues! So we have to be concerned with being protected in extreme weather and the nitty gritty of our insurance policy. It pays to be very diligent with reading Product Disclosure Statements (PDS) each and every year at renewal time. A slight change of wording can be the difference between being insured or not, as we have found.
For the past 7 years we have had our vessels insured with Topsail and have been happy with them although we noticed gradual changes in policy particularly since cruising full time. There is no cyclone cover between latitudes 5 and 25s, no cover at all at any time of year in some anchorages such as Pioneer Bay or Shute Harbour in the Whitsundays, Twofold Bay at Eden in NSW to name a few that affect us. But this year’s changes to our policy had us gasping. Not only was there no cyclone cover north of latitude 25 S, the conditions to be covered for cyclone damage below that line were more stringent. But it is the incredibly restrictive anchoring conditions anywhere at any time of the year that had us floored. Topsail now requires you to move anchorage daily or face the risk of increased excess if you make a claim and provide no cover at all if you anchor in the same spot for more than 14 days. You also have to be on board and ‘in control’ of your vessel for a minimum of 6 hours a day. And of course if you leave your boat unattended for more than 24 hours at anchor you are not covered – a standard clause. We considered the anchoring restrictions totally untenable so decided to shop around. We approached Pantaenius, Club Marine, Nautilus, Red Sky, New Wave… It made for interesting reading of PDS – Chris’s job given her insurance background!
We have changed insurers! Helped by broker Wesley Strong of West Rock Insurance, we have moved to RedSky Insurance who are underwritten by Lloyds. We have a far less restrictive policy, for slightly less than we used to pay, and with a similar excess to what we had. It will cover us against all normal risk (theft, accidental damage, public liability) but also for damage caused in a named cyclone anywhere we choose to hide, albeit with a large ‘deductible’ ($25,000) which is of similar level with all insurance companies.
For us this is a game changer. Although we have no desire to live through a cyclone on board, are very much aware of the risks with increased storms and severe weather events, and will always take every precaution to protect our vessel, we do appreciate the greater freedom of movement and extended cover without the imposition of unworkable conditions.
Where to spend Summer?
With our insurance sorted the next thing on our mind is where to spend summer. Our current thinking is to stay in Queensland, at least until the end of January, since we need to return to The Boat Works for some engine work. Beyond that to be honest we are not sure. We have to consider three issues for the months ahead: covid, cyclones and humidity.
We are worried that Covid outbreaks might spike up with the festivities and result in state border closures again. If we go south into NSW we might get stuck and there are many safer anchoring options in Queensland than in NSW. We are a bit dubious about river anchorages with floods often accompanying heavy weather.
For cyclone protection around latitude 25S our research shows that the best marina for us would be Gladstone – enough berths for our size boat, protected from the worst of the weather by Curtis Island, close to where we intend to be (Keppels and Southern Reef). We are considering making a booking with them for a few months to have somewhere secure and definite to go back to.
And then there is the humidity! It is early in the summer season and already we are suffering. Even Bengie is finding it uncomfortable. Right now we have 87% humidity! It just saps your energy. You wake up in the morning and feel hot and sticky. Working anywhere on the boat results in instant drenching with sweat. Going ashore: same thing. In fact even standing still you are dripping with perspiration. We go through so many clothes because they get soggy and smelly! If we struggle now, imagine what it will be like in the height of summer!
So we shall see how we feel in early February and decide whether we turn right or left when we leave The Boat Works.
Christmas and New Year
For now as soon as the weather settles and the wind is in the right direction we are heading north. We were hoping to spend Christmas just the two of us and Bengie at Lady Musgrave on the Southern Reef. We don’t have kids or grandkids and now neither of us have parents alive. So it puts a different spin on festive times. But with the continuing heavy weather, we might have to be happy with Fraser Island for Christmas and Lady Musgrave for New Year!
2020 has been a ghastly year for many of us. Our wish is that this coming festive season is a time for joy, renewal and connection for all of us. We hope we come out of this year stronger and more appreciative of what matters.
Merry Christmas from the Sv-Anui crew, and stay safe. Warm hugs to all.