In Queensland, July-Oct 2011

Southport to Mooloolaba

Wednesday 3 to Thursday 4 August 2011

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Stove Project completed on Sunday, boat re-provisioned on Monday. We put off leaving the Gold Coast for one more day so that we can catch up with Peter Poole, Peter's old boss from the University of Melbourne, and on Tuesday we have a very pleasant lunch with him and his wife Margo at the Hope Island Golf Club.

The downside of staying the extra day at the Southport Yacht Club is that it is the finishing point for the Sydney to Gold Coast yacht race. A total lack of wind on Monday meant that the first yachts arrived late Monday or overnight, and we were awoken at 2am by the arrival of Hooligan, berthed opposite. There was a certain amount of noise associated with their berthing, removal of sails and all that stuff that racers do when they get into a berth, but it wasn't excessively loud and only went on for about 30 mins, so we put up with it with good grace. But on the Tuesday night another couple of boats berth near us. One arrives with a lot of noise just as we are going to sleep, then they all go off to drink somewhere. They come back to the boat (or boats, hard to know how many crews there are) at 4am and continue to make a drunken racket until dawn. We decide it will be quieter overnight at sea.

The forecast is for continuing light winds, so we decide we should refuel before leaving. High tide is about 11am and this gives us a slack tide and deep water for getting round to the fuel jetty, so leaving about then, via the fuel jetty, is the plan. We took one of the gas bottle holders back to Southern Stainless on Monday for extra welding and they deliver it back to us mid-morning. The mate works at getting Nahani ready to go to sea again while the engineer fits the last holder. Even that isn't simple - he has to relocate the Danbuoy. We are just about ready around midday when we get a call from the Yacht Club asking us when we are going (they want the berth). We tell them we are about to come round to refuel and a few minutes later they call again to say they are holding the fuel wharf open for us. We rapidly chuck off our lines, and motor round, only to find that someone has got in ahead. By the time they finish, a queue is forming as the racers are lining up to refuel for their trip home. Much scrambling about at the fuel jetty trying to hurry and taking even longer as a result as we struggle with the self service system. A racer is trying to raft up but we hold him off, slip the lines and get out of the way. Only as we head up the Broadwater do we realise we haven't returned our marina keycards. Too late. It is a relief to get out through the rough water in the Seaway entrance and into the open sea at last.

Here we are delighted to find that a southeasterly breeze has sprung up. We put up full main and jib, and start sailing north. Wind blows steadily at 10-15kt on the beam, sun shines warmly, swell is less than a metre - this is what sailing is supposed to be all about. We realise we've lost our sea-fitness while back in Melbourne though. Captain finds he needs a rest after putting sail up. Mate is a little queasy, so it's tinned soup for dinner, not a proper meal. We reef down at sunset, putting in two reefs and are glad we did as wind and swell increase overnight. We take 3 hour watches in turns, and though it is a bit rolly below we both get reasonable sleep. Speed varies from 4-6kt even with two reefs in, averaging 5kt. We sail up the outside of the long sand islands: South and North Stradbroke, Moreton Island. We pass Jumpin Pin between the first two about 4pm, clear the end of Moreton Island about 2am. From there we are a dead run, and do some downwind tacking to avoid jibing. Sunrise finds us not far south of Mooloolaba, but the wind direction has forced us further out to sea than the shortest route. Batteries are getting low and the wind has dropped a bit, so we motor sail the last hour or so across to the entrance to the harbour. We arrive at about the right time for the tide and the entrance is pretty easy. Mate takes the boat in and up the river, captain puts her into the berth at the Wharf Marina that we had booked before we left the Gold Coast. Again this is easy because it is a double berth but both halves are empty - no other boat to avoid. We feel a bit spaced out but after booking in at the Marina office we go to the coffee shop that they recommend. After an excellent coffee and strengthening cake, we feel strong enough to go for a long walk, eventually catching a bus back. We like Mooloolaba, it seems much more real than the Gold Coast.[Top]

Mooloolaba to Tin Can Bay

Tuesday 9 to Wednesday 10 August 2011

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To get to Tin Can Bay, you have to cross the infamous Wide Bay Bar, just off the southern end of Fraser Island. After careful study of all the books of advice and the forecasts for wind, swell and tide, we decide that the optimum time for a crossing is the morning of Wednesday 10 August. The books tell us that it is hard to pick up the critical entry leads against the sun in the late afternoon, and high tide is very early in the morning, so once again we plan an overnight sail in order to arrive at Wide Bay at sunrise.

After a day spent making an egg and bacon pie (new stove cooks it perfectly), doing the washing, filling in our census form on-line, having our last fish and chip lunch and excellent coffee in Mooloolaba, re-provisioning the boat, and generally preparing to set sail, we slip out of our berth in the Wharf Marina at dusk. We have just enough light to see and miss the outrigger canoe teams and kayakers paddling in the river as we follow the channel markers out to the entrance. Helmswoman nearly runs into a marker hiding behind the boom bag, but is alerted by the captain in time.

Although the forecast is for a moderate WNW wind, we start with a 10kt northerly on the nose, and so motor up the coast. Captain takes first watch and puts out some jib as the wind shifts to the west. At the watch change at 10pm we put up a reefed main as well and cut the engine, but the wind is the classic good news/bad news story: as the direction gets more favorable, the strength diminishes. Flop about in 8kt winds for a while doing 3-4kt, but the hobbyhorsing means the captain can't sleep, so the motor goes back on and we motor-sail the rest of the way. Mate does a longish watch before the captain takes over again at about 3am. He wakes her at dawn when Nahani is on the lead line for the first leg of the Wide Bay entry, but well out to sea from what is called "Way Point 1" in the directions. Before we left Mooloolaba we contacted Volunteer Marine Radio at Tin Can Bay to check the coordinates - a wise move as Way Point 1 is now further north than shown on the various charts. Steering to stay on the leads is a challenge because there are currents, so we let the autopilot do the work until we have to revert to handsteering to ensure safe passing distances from a number of boats coming out across the bar. Naturally, we encounter these just at the point where the depth goes from about 25m to about 7m in a boatlength, but there is so little swell there is no drama. We feel the occasional half metre lift from rollers as we pass over Middle Bank, but there are not many, and no breaking waves, so we really have picked our passage time well.

Once over the outer banks, we turn southwest toward the mouth of the channel between Fraser Island and Inskip point. This section is known as "the Mad Mile", but today it is very sane. The confused wave motion gives us an idea of what it could be like with more wind or swell, but today there is not enough of it to put any strain on boat or crew. Going through the channel we dodge more outgoing boats and the car ferry, then turn south again for the long haul down Tin Can Bay, where there are leads and markers to watch for in order to stay off the sandbanks that are covered by the tide.

Mate steers all the way down to and into Snapper Creek, then through the moorings, past the trawler berths to the Tin Can Bay Marina entrance, where the captain takes over. The berth we've been allocated requires a tight left turn into the space between marina arms followed immediately by a tight right into the berth. Nahani can be made to do one or other, but not both in quick succession. But the captain manages a very elegant bit of reversing after the first turn in order to line the second one up, and we slip in easily - as is customary in marinas some complete stranger trots around from his boat to take our line and help us in. We are securely tied up with power on shortly after 10am. The captain is justly pleased with his berthing effort and contemplates a celebratory beer, but decides it would send him to sleep. Has a soft drink and goes to sleep anyway.

While we are in Tin Can, we enjoy a visit from cousin Alex and kids Max and Ruby who come over from Rainbow Beach to join us for lunch. Max and Ruby are disappointed to find that we're not all sailing, so we promise them a trip next year in Tasmania. [Top]

Tin Can Bay to Urangan

Sunday 14 to Thursday 18 August 2011

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We travel up Tin Can Inlet, across to Fraser Island and up the Great Sandy Strait at a leisurely speed, stopping at four anchorages on the west side of Fraser Island as we go. Sunday night at Fig Tree Creek, Monday at Garry's Anchorage, Tuesday at Sheridan Flats and Wednesday at Kingfisher Bay. We also anchor for a while at South White Cliffs before moving back to Sheridan Flats to avoid noisy neighbours - three houseboats whose occupants spend the whole time zipping back and forth between boats in tinnies with outboards at full throttle.

We leave Tin Can about midday Sunday 14 August. After motoring out of Snapper Creek, we put up the jib and find there is just enough wind to move us at about 3-3.5kt, which is about the speed we think is comfortable in very shallow waters, so we sail the rest of the way to Fig Tree Creek. On subsequent days the journeys are short, the waters are shallow and the winds light, so we motor. There is more wind on our last day, but it is northerly so more or less on the nose as we emerge from the Strait into Hervey Bay proper and make for Urangan, so once again we motor.

The longest legs of the journey are on the first and last days. On each of the intervening days we take the dinghy ashore to explore bits of Fraser Island, taking a short walk inland from Garry's Anchorage, a longer one along Deep Creek from South White Cliffs, and a short walk around the Kingfisher Bay eco-tourism resort. On the second two shore trips we return from our walks to find the dinghy stranded in mud by the receding tide, and have some interesting times getting it back in the water, particularly from the mouth of Deep Creek. We manage without any real muscle strain - the challenge is staying upright in deep sticky mud as you manoeuvre the boat through the shallows. We are very pleased with the performance of the dinghy in these conditions - it is immensely easier to heave around than the old tinny would have been.

We enjoy the peaceful, calm anchorages, the quiet bushwalks, spectacular sunsets watched from the boat with gin and tonic in hand. We go to bed early, get up late, and read a lot. The only (literal) fly in the ointment is the sandfly menace. We were warned and have equipped ourselves with various repellents but, having not encountered them before, we are expecting to notice if we are being bitten, so plan to take action if and when that happens. Too late we discover that not only do you not see sandflies, aka no-see-ums, they are also, as far as we are concerned, no-feel-ums. Mate is now sporting a large number of bites that didn't come up for hours or even days after she was bitten. We are now taking better preventive action with Rid, Aerogard, mosquito coils, and she thinks/hopes the number of new bites appearing is diminishing. She finds the itching manageable, but the bites most unattractive. Captain is less affected - either they don't like the taste of him, or he doesn't react as much to the allergens.

Our observations: constant sight of fires on the horizon, smoke from them often contributing to spectacular sunsets. Lots of other craft ranging from yachts through big and small power boats to houseboats. Catamarans are very popular here for obvious reasons - their shallow draft makes navigation less complicated than for a deep-keeler like Nahani. Despite notices and information about all kinds of wild life, we see nothing, no snakes, no dingoes, no crocodiles, no whales. Mate sees something that might have been a turtle off Garry's anchorage. We finally get organised and take some photos but haven't yet loaded them - watch this space. [Top]

Hervey Bay and the Great Sandy Straits with Robbie

Saturday 20 to Thursday 25 August 2011

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We spend six days of indifferent weather in Hervey Bay and the north end of the Great Sandy Strait, with a brief excursion into the Susan River, a small tributary of the Mary River just inside the river heads. We have some good sailing on the first and last days, but have one day when the weather is so wet that we just stay anchored, read books and play games. By following the whale watch boats we do manage to find some whales to watch in Hervey Bay, but at the cost of making Robbie seasick in some very choppy conditions. We spend the first three nights anchored in spots off the beach in Platypus Bay. It is a bit rolly but we are reasonably sheltered from the prevailing SE winds and so not uncomfortable. On Tuesday we head down into the Great Sandy Strait to find quieter waters. We anchor at Kingfisher Bay twice, going ashore for bushwalks around the eco-tourism resort, enjoying coffee and fish and chips at the Sand Bar, buying postcards and gifts at the shop.

We have a very eventful 24 hours between anchorings at Kingfisher Bay. On Tuesday night we decide to seek a more sheltered anchorage in the Susan River. Shallow waters and lots of moored boats make finding a spot difficult, and we don't allow sufficiently for the fact that we will be tide-rode rather than wind-rode overnight, and will therefore swing into shallower water as the tide ebbs. As a result we spend four hours with the keel on the bottom, gradually leaning over to starboard by about 30 degrees before equally gradually straightening up again. Watching the calendar gradually swing out until suspended in the doorway to the cabin, trying to move around on sloping floors, and grabbing at objects as they slide suddenly and unexpectedly off shelves and tables has us laughing hysterically. As the tilt increases we wedge ourselves into positions on the starboard side, Robbie in the guest bunk, captain on a seaberth, mate in the cockpit, but none of us can really sleep until we are afloat again about 0130.

We make a very early start the next morning to avoid a repeat grounding, and so are unwashed, unbrushed and unbreakfasted when boarded by the water police just after anchoring back at Kingfisher Bay. There are regular articles in the cruising magazines complaining about the frequency of such inspections in Queensland, so we are not surprised and it is all very friendly, but afterwards, reflecting on the fact that we have been photographed, questioned, and the boat searched from end to end, we do feel somewhat invaded. We gather from the police that they are only inspecting us because the strong winds are keeping the trawler fleet in harbour, so they have to make do with cruising yachts, but we wonder how people would feel if police could walk into their holiday homes and perform a similar exercise without a warrant.

We are back in Urangan on Thursday night where we make a good landing in the berth despite the strong winds. We'd considered a celebratory last meal ashore, but as it is raining (again) we settle for beef wellingtons and an excellent red aboard. We havebreakfast out on Friday morning before Robbie catches her taxi to the airport to return south. [Top]

Urangan to Bundaberg

Thursday 1 September 2011

After Robbie left we had almost a week in Hervey Bay. We made several bus trips: to Urangan Central and Pialba for provisions, and into Maryborough to see the town. In between, the engineer completed a long-standing project to install a smarter battery charging system and the mate worked on a book editing project that she hasn't quite managed to finish. The discovery that the battery leads that had been made up in Tasmania had loose terminal connections disconcerted the engineer considerably, but the problem was resolved by an auto-electrician in Pialba. We really enjoyed the trip to Maryborough. Numbers of splendid, solid Victorian buildings testify to the affluence of the city in the 1870s, as does the magnificent park. There is evidence that it is not doing so well now: numbers of cash converters, tattoo parlours, cheap barbers, and signs in the Vinnies op shop telling you not to take the tags off the clothes and that there is video surveillance. People must be desperate to shoplift from an op shop. The crew came home with a fresh clutch of second hand books, three shirts (one for her, two for him) a jug and a mug from our tours of op shops and second-hand bookshops. We had a very good lunch at the cafe at the Maryborough marina, and promised ourselves that next time we would bring Nahani up river.

Sailing with a tail wind from Urangan to the Port Bundaberg marina is an easy trip. We motor-sail some of the way because with light winds dead aft we aren't making good enough time to get to Burnett Heads (the mouth of the river) before dark under sail alone. But after motoring up to the end of the shallows that lead down into Urangan and then motor-sailing some of the morning after we'd put the headsail up, we sail goose-winged all afternoon in pleasant weather. [Top]

Port Bundaberg to Pancake Creek

Monday 6 to Tuesday 7 September 2011

The Port of Bundaberg marina is at Burnett heads at the mouth of the river. It is a large and well set up marina with good amenities, a large chandlery, restaurant, fish and chip shop. There is a huge slip, hard stand and a boat building facility for large boats, but beyond that, nothing. On our first day we caught the local bus into Bundaberg to see the sights there. It doesn't have any of the historic charm of Maryborough, but it's a bigger and more affluent-looking town with more variety of shops, cafes etc. Like Maryborough, it has a marina on the river, but we didn't think it was attractive enough to warrant moving Nahani from a comfortable berth in the marina. Bundaberg did have a good range of hardware, timber and plumbing supply stores and we returned on the bus carrying an odd assortment: a piece of wood, a length of poly pipe and some plumbing fittings. These are all to be assembled into a removable mast step that will allow the tender to be turned into a sailing dinghy. Two more days in the marina waiting for blustery weather to quieten, and then it was off north again.

Burnett Heads to Pancake Creek is a long day sail, so we are up and out of the marina by 7am. It rains and blows as we go out through the Fairway, and we are a bit cautious about sail setting at first. Once again the SE trades are directly behind us. We begin motor-sailing with just the jib, then add a reefed main, pole out the jib and sail goose-winged. We still have to tack down-wind a bit, and this lengthens our journey time even though we are doing about 6kt. In the afternoon the weather improves, sun comes out, we put more sail up and then the wind increases. We are now doing 6-7kt and on a more favorable tack, but still not doing well enough to reach Pancake Creek before dark. Motoring wouldn't make any difference, so we enjoy the sailing and reconcile ourselves to finding our way into a difficult anchorage in the dark. About 20 minutes after sunset we reach the point where we turn across the top of Cape Clewes and we strike our sails before turning west. We motor across to the mouth of Pancake Creek in the dark, and then feel our way in. Our chartplotter doesn't show any of the marker buoys that are shown in the various Cruising Guides that give details of local anchorages, so it is back to the old-fashioned system of looking at the charts and looking ahead. We manage to negotiate our way to a safe anchoring point with a minimum of shouting and only a few nervous moments when the depth goes below 3m, and are relieved when the anchor holds first go. After an early start, a 12 hour sail and an anxious anchoring process, we are weary, and after a quick meal it is time for an early night.

We wake to rain, which goes on all day and it is cold enough to make staying in bed and reading very attractive. After a late brunch we try to pick a time when the tide is rising and it isn't raining to move further down Pancake Creek. We eventually raise the anchor in mid-afternoon and move very slowly down through the shoals. Rain starts again, so we get progressively wetter as we carefully follow the markers and leads down to the inner area where a dozen boats are already at anchor. After the last marker we turn too early and found ourselves in 1.9m (technically aground, and there is one bump), but we let the boat drift off again and make for deeper waters amongst the other vessels. We then have trouble finding holding, but on about the fourth attempt we get the anchor safely bedded and can go and get out of our wet clothes (we were wet even with our wet weather gear on). Hot soup and hot showers are required - not what we expected from Queensland at all. [Top]

Pancake Creek to Gladstone

Saturday 10 September 2011

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It stops raining and we have two lovely days in Pancake Creek, finally warm enough to swim. On Wednesday the Captain uses the bits he bought in Bundaberg to rig a step in the dinghy for the windsurfer mast we acquired ages ago in Tasmania, we get a sail up and find the dinghy sails quite well, even to windward. On our second try on Thursday the wind comes up, the mast step comes adrift and tide and wind are taking us away from the mothership faster than the mate can row. Fortunately we are rescued by other yachties passing in their dinghy, who give us a tow back to Nahani. The wind increases, so quite a bit of the following day, Friday, is spent with the motor on in reverse as the tide and wind are coming in opposite directions, so that the boat moves forward over the anchor, dragging the chain against the hull and threatening to trip the anchor. Once the tide run reduces the problem goes away and we have a comfortable night despite the wind.

On Saturday morning we get up at first light and leave at sunrise to go out of Pancake Creek just before high tide. Navigating in shallows is always somewhat stressful, and we are glad when we clear the creek and finally get into double figures on the depth sounder. We put up sail and head toward Gladstone in a SW wind. At first we are making a comfortable 4-5kt with just the headsail, but then the wind eases and we add a double-reefed main. We are wondering whether we will need to shake out a reef when the wind rises to around 20kt, and from then on we sail to windward in fairly blustery and choppy conditions to the entrance to South Channel, one of four leading into Gladstone Harbour. As we are now heading straight into the wind down the channel, we drop all sails and motor. Considerable concentration is still required because Gladstone is a major port and there are big, VERY big, ships bearing down on us from behind, tugs and ferries coming towards us - we have to dodge out of the channel a couple of times to keep out of their way. Finally we turn down Auckland Creek, dodge another couple of ferries and then turn into the Port of Gladstone marina. They have given us a berth on the end of a finger, which should make berthing easy, but the still strong wind is blowing us off, and the mate can't get the boat close enough for the captain to jump ashore on the first try. We go round again, and this time someone from a nearby boat comes to take our lines, and we get ourselves in. We find this journey has made us more tired than usual, so after signing in we both have a nap. Later we walk ashore to inspect the marina facilities (very good) and then walk through the marina park, across the bridge and into Gladstone city for a very pleasant meal at the Library Square Brasserie. The menu has literary pretensions - the mate enjoys Susan Sontag Scallops. Opposite, outside the Library itself, there is an open air concert being given by a group of school children whose music creates an interesting ambience - we think it infinitely preferable to the noise issuing from a pub that we considered as a dinner option, but rejected. [Top]

Return to Pancake Creek with Tim and Kylie

Saturday 17 to Tuesday 20 September 2011

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Tim and Kylie are joining us for their third Nahani trip, but as they will only be aboard for a little over three days, we decide that the there isn't time to get out to one of the islands, and instead that we will return to Pancake Creek. The forecast is for warm sunny weather, but not much wind, so sailing opportunities are going to be limited anyway. As soon as they arrive from the airport we head out for the long trip through Gladstone Harbour, pursued by some very large vessels who unexpectedly head outside the channel markers, where we think we are safe from big ships. They hoot, we move rapidly even further out of the channel. Once clear of the shipping we put up full sail and head toward Pancake Creek. At first we are doing a quite respectable 4-5kt, but the wind slowly drops and by the time the captain wakes from his afternoon nap we are doing less than 3kt, and we start the motor. Once Nahani is travelling at speed again, we are rewarded by a visit from a pod of half a dozen dolphins, who entertain us swimming around the prow as the daylight wanes. As anticipated, we finish the journey in the dark, enjoying the stars. Having already been into the entry to Pancake Creek after nightfall on our last visit, we are confident of navigating our way in, but we find four vessels already anchored, and have to stop and find a spot before we get too close to them. Once anchored, we enjoy the roast beef that has been in the oven during the latter part of the voyage.

The two days we spend in Pancake Creek are heavenly. Calm seas, warm sun, light afternoon breezes - perfect conditions for swimming and messing about in boats. We inflate the kayak and use it to paddle to the sandbar at low tide. The captain and mate make further experimental trips with the sail on the dinghy - more work is needed to stabilise the mast but she definitely sails. Tim and the captain take the dinghy and go exploring in the mangroves. Everyone swims, both days, except the captain. The mate does some hull scrubbing, and provides a swimming exhibition for the rest of the crew when she discovers the brush she was using has come untied from her wrist and is floating off on the tide. Swimming to retrieve it is easy, swimming back with it against the tide proves seriously challenging.

On the second day the entire crew make an early start, taking the dinghy back out to the outer anchorage and putting ashore in a delightful cove there. We successfully locate the beginning of a track which we follow up to the lighthouse on Bustard Head. It is a lovely walk, mostly through shady bush, with splendid views of Aircraft Beach en route, and another impressive view from the lighthouse. There are tours offered of the lighthouse, but they require ready cash and none of us has thought to bring any money. We inspect the tiny graveyard (several drownings, and some infant mortality) then return through the flowers and butterflies to the beach and the dinghy, and are back in time for a barbecue lunch aboard.

Murphy's law of wind operates on our return trip: after a cautious exit through the shallows of Pancake Creek, we start in 0-2kt winds, which rise very slowly as we motor across a glassy sea toward Gladstone. We put up sail, but more for show than effect. By the time we reach the shipping channels winds are up to about 8kt, but well into the channel we have 12-15kt, and we are motor-sailing. There is now enough wind to sail without the motor, but it doesn't seem worthwhile as we aren't confident about relying on sail alone in constrained waters. The now strong wind makes berthing a bit of a challenge as we are being blown across on to the other boat in the pen we've been allocated, but with Tim available to jump ashore and catch bow and stern lines from the mate and captain, and with Kylie ready to push off on the other side, we tie up without too much drama. We share a celebratory champagne before seeing Tim and Kylie off to catch their flight home.

In the Port of Gladstone marina, we are daily captivated by a nesting wagtail. We have walked past it, oblivious, a number of times before Karin and Darcy (a couple with whom we've had two social drink sessions, one on our boat, one on theirs) point out the bird nesting on a bobstay on one of the boats near Nahani. Apparently the birds made a nest in the same place the previous year, hatched a clutch of three eggs, and to everyone's relief, the fledglings learned to fly without falling in the drink. Back on the bobstay this year, the bird sits there apparently unconcerned about the stream of people constantly walking past within a metre of its nest. Sometimes it faces the boat, sometimes the jetty (as in the picture). Its only concession to the passers-by is that it stops whistling to itself as you approach, regards you with a beady eye as you pass, then recommences its song.

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Gladstone to Great Keppel

Friday 23 to Saturday 24 September 2011

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We have a very pleasant and easy sail up from Gladstone on Friday - not much shipping to avoid in the channel, and a nice run up the east side of Curtis Island in a 10-15kt SE wind. We leave at about 7:20am and arrive at our overnight anchorage on the west side of Cape Capricorn at about 4pm. For once we are first boat into an anchorage - two others arrive after us. We are also anchored when it is still warm enough for the mate to enjoy a swim ashore and exploration of the beach. We roll gently, but not enough to really worry us or keep us awake.

Cook is up at sunrise on Saturday (see picture to prove it) to bake bread and replenish the biscuit barrel. Baking done by 8:30, then breakfast and general tidying up and we get away at about 9:45am. There is no wind, so we motor to Hummocky Island, where we anchor for elevenses, sampling the latest batch of Anzac biscuits. While we are drinking our tea we notice a catamaran runabout upside down on the shore, still with two outboards attached. We try calling up some of the local Marine Rescue stations but none of them answer. Then a Police boat appears so we hail them. They explain that it has been there for some time, and is still waiting for its owners to come and collect. Don't fancy their chances of the engines being usable - the boat is so far down the beach that it looks as though the engines would be in the water on every high tide. Having done our good citizen act for the day, albeit pointlessly, we weigh anchor and motor to Great Keppel, anchoring at Long Beach on the south side as the wind is supposed to be going to the north overnight. Dinghy trip ashore, walk on the beach, then settle in for a roast dinner - new stove is working overtime.

We stay put on Sunday as it blows up from the north. One by one all the other boats in the vicinity come round to the shelter of the south side, until the anchor lights in the evening look like Bourke Street. Captain stays aboard all day, but the mate swims ashore for a walk on the beach. Monday morning we motor anti-clockwise round the island to Second Beach, as the wind is going round to the ESE. This proves a very rolly anchorage, and we decide against trying to launch the dinghy for a trip ashore. Mate swims ashore again. Captain is concerned, not because he thinks she won't make the half mile round trip, but because he is afraid someone will run over her in a dinghy. But not many dinghies are afloat, and none come near her. On Tuesday it is quieter, we take Nahani closer to the beach, take the dinghy ashore and walk around to the resort on the west side of the island. There is a new trendy development up on the hill, but most of what we see are old-fashioned guest houses, a shop and a bistro which all look as though they have been unchanged for the last fifty years, which we rather like. We enjoy fish and salad, good coffee at the bistro. On our return the tide is so low we can walk right round the point, avoiding repeating the quite steep climb we had to do on the way there. We dinghy back to the mother ship, by which time it is cool enough to deter the mate from having a last swim.

Having crossed 23.5 degrees, we are now officially in the tropics and almost 20 degrees north of the southernmost point of our journey. That's 1200 nautical miles as the seagull flies. In the northern hemisphere that distance would take you from Mexico to Canada up the coast of the USA, or from Gibraltar to London. The equivalent latitudes are roughly from Cape Finisterre (top left corner of Spain) to Mauritania in Africa. And yet here we're still less than halfway up the coast of Queensland. Makes you realise what a big country we live in. [Top]

Great Keppel to Lady Musgrave

Tuesday 27 to Wednesday 28 September 2011

We decide to leave Great Keppel late on Tuesday 27 September. The wind is still ESE, but not as strong as the previous evening, and we hope we can manage to get some benefit from the wind, although we will be heading SE and into the swell. We motor sail with staysail and double-reefed main on a long beat down the Curtis Channel making good time through the night, encountering enough waves head-on to ship a lot of water into the anchor locker (Engineer makes a note: must find a way to seal around the bowsprit and spurling pipe, where water enters as Nahani dips her bow into on-coming waves). When we turn toward Lady Musgrave around dawn the wind is on the nose. We make a couple of tacks, but progress is too slow so we drop sail and motor. We have a tiny crisis about mid-morning when the engineer decides that we need to transfer more fuel to the day-tank, and the transfer pump dies. We tack for about an hour making about 1kt toward the waypoint while he replaces the pump (of course he has a spare pump - this is Nahani!). Motor back on and we reach Lady Musgrave at 1pm, a little earlier than scheduled, so there is still quite a strong ebb tide race through the entrance into the lagoon, and we are glad of the Yanmar's extra power to keep us away from the coral. We navigate carefully through the bommies, and anchor amongst a cluster of other vessels. Dinghy down and off we go to explore the lagoon and island cay. The tide is so low that we would have to scramble across a lot of coral to get to the beach of the cay, so we elect to stay afloat and just paddle about. The water is so still and clear that even from the dinghy we can marvel at the coral shapes and colours, the fish, the sea slugs and the turtles below us. Every now and then a turtle sticks a reptilian head above the surface like a periscope. Once again we congratulate ourselves on the choice of the new dinghy - it copes happily with both of us hanging over the same side saying "Look at that!" without any threat of capsize. And when we misjudge the depth of the bommies there is only a gentle scraping noise and she slides off again very easily. After an hour or so we have had enough and return to sit on deck and enjoy the sunset and, for the first time in a few nights, a meal in a boat that isn't rolling. [Top]

Lady Musgrave to Mooloolaba

Thursday 29 September to Saturday 1 October 2011

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We enjoyed a calm afternoon at Lady Musgrave, but it doesn't last. The shift back to northerly winds comes in sooner and stronger than the long range forecast had led us to expect, and by midnight we are rolling again. Thursday morning it is blowing hard enough to make further exploration of the lagoon by dinghy unattractive. On the other hand, the wind conditions are ideal for travelling south, so we ready ourselves to leave at 9am, slack water, high tide. It is harder to see the channel with waves washing over the reef, but easier to drive through than on the way in, and fortunately the wind is blowing straight into the entrance, so we aren't blown sideways. Once safely through we motor down the side of the reef, then have a great run south east on jib alone. When we decided to leave Lady Musgrave we thought we would head back to Bundaberg, but sailing conditions are so favourable we decide to go down straight down the outside of Fraser Island to Mooloolaba instead. We pass Lady Elliott island early in the afternoon, see a pod of dolphin there, and we are off the shoals north of Fraser Island by nightfall. We turn to the south, put up reefed main and staysail, because the wind is scheduled to change from NW to SW. With strong winds and a favourable swell and current we are doing 7-8kt all night. Seas are quite big so it isn't exactly smooth sailing, but it's fast!

We see numbers of boobies soaring over the water in the afternoon, and as the sun sets, they circle the boat and hover above the cockpit. Mate remarks that it almost looks as though one is trying to land on the radar when said bird does a go-round and comes in to land, not on the radar, but on the wind generator. Which is ON. There is a terrible bang and a thud, and we have what we think is a mortally wounded booby lying on the lazarette lid, one wing flailing. At first we fear that the other wing is broken, or worse, ripped off by the blades (which rotate at fearsome speeds), but then it flops about until it is lying upside down on the cockpit cushion. We can now see that both wings are OK, but fear that it has a broken or dislocated neck, as its head is thrown back at an unnatural angle. We watch its heaving breast, waiting for the next (or last) move. Long pause, then more thrashing and it falls to the floor of the cockpit, still apparently unable to put its head forward. Another long pause, another flurry, and suddenly it is on its feet, both wings appropriately folded, and its head and neck looking normal, apart from a large bloodstain on its bill. It sits. Captain and mate sit, one either side of the cockpit, legs drawn up out of pecking range (boobies have long, pointy beaks). Captain worries about the possibility of it getting inside the boat. Mate's first reaction is that no sensible bird would go in that direction, but then, this bird has already failed an intelligence test, so we put in the boards and close the hatch. Just as well, because the bird's next move is indeed to the companionway to thrash against the boards. Mate, already prepared with sailing gloves and a large towel, drops the towel over the bird's body at this stage, which calms it remarkably. She is able to pick it up by the shoulders, and heave it over the rails, hoping to see it fly away. Instead there is a plop as it hits the water. By now it's much too dark to see what has happened to it. Captain points out that water is its natural habitat, so we just have to hope that survives. After its departure we notice a strong and lingering smell of fish, and find it has left its lunch in a corner of the cockpit. Possibly the shock of hitting the wind generator meant that the piece of fish became stuck in its throat, causing the temporary aberrant neck position. We throw the fish overboard after the bird.

When we were still hoping the booby might fly off of its own volition, we turned off the wind generator to avoid any repeat collision, which was as well, as a second booby lands on it while we are still trying to deal with the first visitor. It doesn't stay, but much later, around midnight, the captain catches sight of something white above the dinghy, which turns out to be yet another booby, perched on the davits, head tucked under its wing, having a kip and a free ride. Seas are still big enough to create quite a bit of movement, and it is amazing to watch it keep its balance with its big flat webbed feet on a bit of painted steel (see for yourself on the YouTube video). At dawn, it flies off. Hopefully it can make it back home to the reef area, because by then we are well down the side of Fraser Island.

By going down the outside we avoid a Wide Bay Bar crossing, but put ourselves in the shipping channels. Murphy's laws of passing ships appear to include that you can sail all day without seeing one, but there will be several after dark, and that they hunt in packs. During the night there are two coming from opposite directions, passing with about 6nm between them, with Nahani half way between the two. On Friday afternoon we have two approaching together such that if you make the safe deviation to avoid the first, you turn into the path of the second, so we have to go across the bows of the first. Fortunately by this time the wind has eased to almost nothing and we are under motor, making avoidance much easier than the overnight situation when we were doing 7kt under sail, close to our jibe point. However with the AIS telling you closing distances and times, it is a lot less scary than when one had to judge it visually.

After the wind drops out in the afternoon we take advantage of the period of motoring in calm seas to have hot showers and prepare dinner. By the time we are ready to eat it the wind has gone back to the north and strengthened again. As we don't want to arrive at Mooloolaba before daylight, we put up just the jib, even furling it to keep the speed down at one stage. Wind helps by easing, finally going round to the south so we motor the last 10nm to Mooloolaba, enter the river around 6:30am (even at that hour on a Saturday there are enthusiasts training: rowing surfboats, paddling outrigger canoes and kayaks). We know our way to the Wharf Marina now and make a trouble-free, unaided entry into the berth. When we check the weather and find there is a southerly change due and the winds will stay this way for several days, we are very pleased to have got this far south while there was a favourable weather window, and to be snug in the marina when the strong southerly comes through. [Top]

Mooloolaba to Southport

Friday 7 October to Saturday 8 October 2011

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Captain's daughter Barb arrives from the airport late morning and we head round to the Mooloolaba cafe strip for lunch. In the afternoon she has a run, she and the mate have a swim, and Nahani is readied for departure. At 1700 we slip our moorings, head downriver and out to sea. We put up single-reefed main and jib and head toward Cape Moreton on a beam reach. We see a pair of humpbacks, enjoy a spectacular sunset over Mooloolaba, and are instructed by a large ship to take the unorthodox step of passing "green to green" so that they can turn to meet a pilot boat. We have a good run down to Cape Moreton which sadly Barb doesn't enjoy as she becomes quite seasick. When we turn south the wind is dead astern, so we drop the main and continue on jib alone. Initially our speed drops but gradually increases back to 5-6kt as the wind builds. Captain and mate take watches in turn and at dawn we are off Point Lookout on Stradbroke Island.

At 0700 the captain hears a warning on the radio for a severe thunderstorm with hail and damaging winds - already there has been a 137kph gust recorded. We furl the jib, turn on the motor and head out to sea, where the worst we experience is some rain, brief lightning and thunder, and a short term increase in wind and waves. Once we are convinced the worst is past we turn and head into the wind and rain back toward the Gold Coast seaway, reaching the entrance at about 1245. By then the rain has stopped, winds are gentle, tide is slack and the entrance is easy. We anchor briefly in Bum's Bay while we contact the Southport Yacht Club to organise a berth, then motor on down the Broadwater. With Barb doing an expert job fending off with the broom on one side and both captain and mate each managing to lasso a cleat from the deck first go, we berth unaided and without drama. Barb is still feeling queasy so goes ashore for a shower, then we all head down Tedder avenue for a much-needed coffee. Later we hear on the news that a fishing boat was struck by lightning off Cape Moreton at about 0800, and its occupants had to be rescued by helicopter. We figure our decision to go out to sea was a good one. [Top]