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Alchemy II
Chesterfield to Bundaberg
October 31 2015, Bundaberg Port Marina

Sadly it came time to move on from Chesterfield. The three day trip to Bundaberg was another pretty good passage for us, especially the first two days. We'd had a fair bit of adverse current, and were trying to time our entry into Australia for Monday morning (the quarantine fee for yachts is almost $400 to come into Australia - and double that if you arrive on a weekend). Late on the third day we must have hooked in to the East Australian Current, as we started to get up to two knots current assist. With a 20 knot side on breeze we were having trouble slowing our boat down, trying to only do about 7 knots, but travelling (over ground) at 8s and 9s, despite having reefed the main, and having only a tiny bit of jib out, later rolling the jib up altogether. Early evening our autohelm started to make some unusual noises when we were hit by a bit of a squall, so we decided we'd better hand steer for the rest of the trip. We really realised how much we love our autohelm... Up until about 1am we alternated helming, 30 mins on, 30 mins off. The strong side on breeze and a 2 to 3 metre swell made steering a real handful, and cloud cover meant we had nothing to steer towards, having to rely on instruments only. Not far into Hervey Bay we decided to heave to, resuming our trip just before dawn after getting a couple of hour's rest. With some daylight to help, Matt was able to fix the autohelm while we were underway, making the last 5 hours of our trip much more agreeable.
We arrived at Bundaberg as planned at around 9am on Monday morning. Customs and Quarrantine checks went well, and we were able to keep a lot of food we assumed would be confiscated (nuts, grains, honey, dairy products). We'd opened a beer each while waiting for the Customs officer to come over. Seeing us with beers in hand, he looked a little bemused, and commented it was pretty early in the day for a beer (around 10.30am) - we told him from our perspective, it was the end of a very very long day. Luckily he smiled!

A non-bird photo from Chesterfield
October 26 2015, Chesterfield Reef

We spotted this group of crabs (not sure what the collective term is for crabs) taking a snooze.

Beautiful colours
October 26 2015, Chesterfield Reef

The colours were absolutely amazing with polaroids.

Photo op
October 26 2015, Chesterfield Reef


MILLIONS of birds
October 26 2015, Chesterfield Reef

We felt like we were in a David Attenborough documentary at times.

Not a bad spot for a walk along the beach
October 26 2015, Chesterfield Reef


One last boobie shot (these guys were just so cute)
October 26 2015, Chesterfield Reef

Mum looking after the next generation.

Mum & Chick
October 26 2015, Chesterfield Reef

Kind of funny to walk past the mother boobies and their chicks - the fluffy chicks were almost bigger than the mums, but tended to cower over to the mums when we walked past.

Wow - that guy's really good at flying
October 26 2015, Chesterfield Reef


More passengers
October 26 2015, Chesterfield Reef

Boobies hanging out on our bow. Some other cruisers at Chesterfield were quite pleased that their more traditional boat had a big wooden bow sprit where boobies could hang out. Somehow these three managed to hang on to the pulpit.

Chesterfield Reef (one of about a dozen entries)
October 26 2015, Chesterfield Reef

Wow! What a stunning place (a "magic and fantastic place" as a fellow cruiser put it). The colours were unbelievable, the bird life incredible. An absolute paradise for photographers - as well as the rest of us. We took so many photos here - and had to be very disciplined to only post nine of them!

Heading home - but one more stop first...
October 25 2015

Finally the weather started behaving, and it was time to head home. We set sail for Australia on Tuesday morning, planning break the seven day trip into two, by stopping for a while at Chesterfield Reef.
On the way, Matt managed to catch Mahi Mahi #2 - this time a slightly more manageable (i.e., smaller one), and he (the fish - not Matt) was vacuum packed and in our fridge in quick time.
The four day passage to Chesterfield was probably the best sailing we've done. None of this battling big winds and seas. We cruised in a very civilised fashion in less than 20 knots of breeze, and seas below 2m, often less than 1. Plus we had a full moon. Couldn't we get used to this!
Each night, we had an extra passenger on board - a boobie. It seemed quite challenging for the birds to find a suitable landing strip, as we watched them skid off the top of the solar panels, or fly straight into aerials on the back of the boat. The boobies were completely unphased by us shining a torch straight on them. We later realised we probably had multiple passengers each night, spotting a bird right at the top of the mast, and another on top of the jumper strut on front of the mast. Each morning the birds flew off as the sun came up.

Vanuatu Cultural Centre
October 22 2015, Port Vila, Efate (Vanuatu)

We made a trip to the Cultural Centre, which was filled with great artefacts. We were both really taken with a sand drawing demonstration by one of the Centre guides - a traditional Vanuatu means of passing on important stories. The drawings themselves were quite beautiful. It was mesmerising watching them being drawn in one continuous movement, accompanied by a story. The turtle drawing below is used to welcome a new born child into the community. It's hard to do it justice in a quick blog entry - something well and truly worth seeing in person if you have the chance.

Not a cyclone
October 20 2015, Port Vila, Efate (Vanuatu)

For a few days, a tropical depression close by (just off Fiji) was threatening to develop into a cyclone, which had all the cruisers speculating endlessly about the weather and what might happen. Luckily the system weakened, and didn't move across to Vanuatu (as had been predicted at one stage). The image below is taken from "MetBob's" weather website, tracking the depression (Vanuatu is the group of islands in the middle, New Cal is the large long island on the left, and Fiji is the group of islands on the right).

Round Island Tour
October 11 2015, Efate (Vanuatu)

While in Port Vila, we took the opportunity to do a round island tour of Efate. It was great to see the landscape, although cyclone damage was evident just about everywhere. Our tour guide was really good, but the poor guy had a hard time getting a word in edgeways, as the other two people on the tour turned out to be cruisers heading back to Australia - lots of talking amongst us...
The tour included a visit to a traditional tribal village, where we got to see some of the younger members of the tribe demonstrating traditional dances.

Hanging out at Port Vila - for quite a while...
October 6 2015, Port Vila, Efate (Vanuatu)

It was back to Port Vila on Tuesday, battling some pretty strong head winds and some nasty overfalls at Devil's Point for a while. Unusually strong and persistent winds meant there was a large number of boats at Port Vila, waiting for a decent weather window to sail to New Caledonia, New Zealand or Australia. We ended up staying at Port Vila for quite some time, before the weather was okay to head back to Australia. Lots of socialising with other cruisers, and possibly a little too much indulging in food and wine. But very enjoyable. We'll be good when we get back to Australia...

Taking photos
October 6 2015, Havannah Harbour, Efate (Vanuatu)

This is a swanky new resort - The Havannah. We took this picture as we were sailing past. A day or two later we sailed back past at dusk, and noticed camera flashes as people took photos of us!

Locals fishing at Havannah Harbour
October 6 2015, Havannah Harbour, Efate (Vanuatu)

Locals fishing close where we were anchored.

Happy Birthday Michaela
October 5 2015, Havannah Harbour, Efate

Happy 8th Birthday to Michaela for Friday. Sorry we got the day mixed up - we got the "8th birthday" mixed up with the "8th of October" instead of the 2nd. Hope you had a fun day.

The Hawks again!!
October 4 2015, Havannah Harbour, Efate

We've been in Havannah Harbour, about 20 miles from Port Vila the last couple of days. Taking it easy (tough life we lead at present...). Unfortunately we're out of internet credit again - need to wait to get back to Port Vila to top up. Between Matt's Googling of towed water makers, Sally's research on radars, and trying to find out what happened with the Liberal party coup, our data allowance seemed to disappear. There was definitely no option to stream the AFL grand final live. Luckily our HF radio came to the rescue, allowing us to listen in. Celebratory space reserved here for a picture of the amazing Cyril Rioli. Sally still smiling over the Hawks' third premiership in a row (better luck next year Gus & Gabbie!).

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