Photo: Townsville Christmas
Another year of our cruising life has skipped by; a year of Australian cruising and sightseeing inland, together with our brief flight around the world to see family. This year has seen us cover just under 3000 nautical miles, from Sydney, south to Tasmania at latitude 43ºS then back across Bass Strait and up the Australian east coast to the Whitsundays and finally to Townsville where we are at present at 19ºS. We will spend Christmas day here, with very warm conditions, before driving to Noosa for New Year.
Next year it is off further north to the top of Australia before heading for Asia and the joys of new places, new cruising friends, different cultures and adventures.
We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and an excellent 2012, whatever it has in store for you and your loved ones.
Brian and Gail
Photo: Statue of Liberty, New York.
We left Townsville on a hot Wednesday morning, 26th November, and flew down to Brisbane for the night. Once we had checked into our hotel, we went for a long walk, knowing the next day we would be spending 20+ hours on planes. It was back on the train and out to the international airport the following day for a flight to Boston, USA via Auckland, Los Angeles and San Francisco, an unexpected stop as we didn't realize when we booked the flight that it included a stop. All flights were on time with the only issue being the final flight from San Francisco to Boston on Untied Airlines, where we had expected an evening meal. Once on the plane we found a meal would be available but we had to pay for it, no issue except they ran out of food after only a third of the rows had been served and we were at the rear of the plane. So we were tired and hungry when Garry met us at Boston airport at nearly 1am Friday morning and we drove an hour south to Bristol, Rhode Island.
Bristol is a small, quiet, friendly, coastal town, with a population of about 22,000 and is home to the oldest 4th of July parade in the States. One of the things we noticed was all the houses are detached and a USA flag flies from nearly every house, letterbox and planter boxes. Our first day in Bristol, was spent recovering from the trip and going for a walk to get our bearings. The biggest shock was the temperature, we went from 30+ degrees C to 30 degrees F, we haven't worn so many clothes for a long time. Friday evening we went to the local pub for dinner, the prices here are a lot cheaper than we expected. Being close to Halloween everywhere was decorated in preparation for Monday. Saturday it rained and we had a lazy day, catching up with Garry. Saturday night it snowed, not much but there was snow on the cars in the morning. All wrapped up we drove into Newport and went for a cliff top walk which runs along the front of some very large mansions. There is a lot of old money in this area and it can be seen in the buildings along with the heritage, many houses and buildings have signs on them stating when and by whom they were built. Monday we caught the bus into Newport and spent the day walking the old streets and wharfs which have lots of super yacht berths and storage yards. One of the customs in this area is that boats of all sizes are taken out of the water during the winter months, the boat shrink wrapped and then stored in a yard, usually only inches from its next door neighbor. Apparently Bristol looks very different from a couple of weeks ago when most boats were still in the water, winter has arrived and the boats are now out, grey squirrels can be seen in the gardens collecting nuts for the winter and the early snow has seen the local service teams out fixing heating systems. We spent the rest of the week walking the cycle track, visiting the Herreshoff Museum and exploring the local area on foot and using Garry's car.
Friday we headed north with Garry for 5 days exploring the countryside. We spent the first two nights in Boothbay harbour. Winters here are cold and most of the towns and houses, including whole communities are closed. Some areas the houses have their water pipes drained, windows boarded up and roads closed, everywhere there are boats out of the water, shrink wrapped and parked on front lawns or commercial premises. Houses with piers' bring the pontoons up onto land and take the 'pier' or walkway out of the water until next summer. The area has many peninsulas, lots of waterways and is very picturesque, you can certainly spend a lot of time exploring the area by land and water.
After 2 days exploring the Boothbay area, we headed west to the White Mountains and found great accommodation at the Nordic Resort, Mt Washington. It was essentially a town house with magnificent views of the mountains, a great place to hang out. Monday we walked from Pinkham Nook to the Tuckerman Ravine, 2.4 miles of rocks and snow. The scenery again was superb and the fact that a month ago we were walking in the Whitsundays in 30+ degree heat and were now walking in snow was not missed.
We returned to Bristol for 2 days, including playing a 9 hole golf course, before driving to New Haven and catching the train to New York. Our hotel was close to Time Square, Garry stayed 2 nights before heading back to Bristol for work, while we stayed a further 2 days before flying to London. Whilst in New York we caught the subway or walked for hours and took in all the major sites including: Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Staten Island, Brooklyn Bridge, United Nations, Ground Zero, Central Park and a Broadway show. New York is a fun place, very busy, tall buildings, with the exception of Central Park, not much greenery and the sun does not penetrate the tall buildings. We were happy to visit but not a place we would choose to live.
The flight to the UK was again on time, we arrived at London Heathrow 13:30, picked up the rental car and drove up to Liverpool. In Liverpool we stayed with Gail's brother and sister in law, Phillip and Elaine, spending time with her parents, sister and visiting Sandra and Kevin, friends since teenage years. It was good to catch up with everyone and the weather was reasonably mild.
A week later saw us on NZ1 bound for home via Los Angeles, a long 24 hr flight. The weather in Auckland when we arrived was wet and windy but soon cleared to warm sunny days, it was good to be home after 9 months away, thanks to Damon and Jacs who have looked after the house for us and Dom who has kept the gardens looking good. We had a busy week, dinner with family and friends; walked around the waterfront to see the upgrade to Wynyard Wharf, very well done, went shopping and generally caught up on administration tasks.
We head back to Townsville Tuesday 6th December but will be home again early next year for an extended stay before we head further north into Asia.
Photo: Koala at The Forts, Magnetic Island.
In 5 hours at Airlie Beach we had re-provisioned, completed laundry, refueled and topped the water tanks, we are getting very organised and efficient. We used to allow a minimum of 24 hours and are now down to half a day. Monday 3rd October we left Airlie at 08:45 and had a great gennaker sail 12nm up the coast to Double Bay - eastern, our first stop on the trip north to Townsville. Double Bay is a large bay with a narrower entrance than Woodward Bay next door and doesn't seem to get as much swell, in fact we had a very calm night. We got up the next day to find two birds nesting in the spreaders and they must have been there most of the night looking at the quantity of bird deposits on the deck, first job of the day was to get rid of the birds and clean up their mess. Then it was off to Cape Gloucester for our next stop off the Eco resort. It was a pleasant, although slow gennaker sail until we turned the corner, then it was wing on wing until we reached the shallows, which we motored through following the channel markers through Gloucester Passage. On the way we were buzzed by a Black Hawk helicopter with the crew leaning out of the open door giving us a wave. We went for a walk ashore to check out the two resorts for dinner, walking between them on the beach and back along the track, avoiding the local kangaroos. As it happened, Eco resort closed at 5pm on Monday and Tuesday so wasn't an option, Montes it was for dinner. The dinner was excellent, the seafood platter shared by Gordon and Maree, Brian had Surf and Turf (steak, prawns, scallops) and Gail had red emperor fish, all highly recommended.
An early start on Wednesday saw us under gennaker 42nm north to Cape Upstart. At Able Point, a coal loading facility, we had a close encounter with a ship that was arriving and couldn't make its mind up where it was going, we called them up on the radio but they didn't answer, we then snubbed the gennaker and changed course until we saw them put the anchor down, then it was back up with the gennaker and off to Cape Upstart, arriving at 15:00. Cape Upstart is a national park, fairly barren, sparse bush with sandy beaches and many holiday batches/homes. It was a pleasant stop for the night.
The anchor was off the bottom at 05:30 Thursday morning for the 65nm trip to Magnetic Island, Townsville. We had to motor most of the way due to lack of wind and only managed to sail for about 2 hours; however we did catch our first fish in Australia, a school mackerel, very nice. We arrived in Picnic Bay, Magnetic Island at 15:15. Magnetic Island is an island of huge boulders; everywhere you look there are boulders perched on top of one another looking precarious. We spent a week in Picnic Bay, exploring the island, taking the bus across to Horseshoe Bay and going for walks including the walk up to the Forts, old World War II buildings. Along the track to the Forts we saw a couple of koalas sleeping in the trees, the first we have seen in the wild. Monday 10th we took the boat around to Florence Bay for the day for a change of scenery and a snorkel. We have been spoilt with the great snorkeling in the Whitsundays and did not spend long in the water. Friday evening we caught up with friends Bob and Rosie we met in Tonga last year and went to a local Asian food market for dinner. Saturday our Skedaddle friends we met coming up the New South Wales coast earlier in the year came into the bay, another social evening and yes we watched the quarter finals of the rugby world cup, go the All Blacks. Monday evening we had drinks on Skedaddle with Janie and Greg, they left the following morning while we went on the Forts walk. Wednesday we caught up with Bob and Rosie for morning tea before they headed home towards Melbourne and then took the boat into Townsville marina.
Dol will stay in the marina while we go off to the States, UK and NZ. Before then there was work to be done, Brian installed the new watermaker, Gail polished all the stainless steel, we caught up with all the laundry and the boat got a good clean. On the Saturday we went to a BBQ at Gordon and Maree's to watch the first of the rugby world cup semi finals, then for the big game, Aussies vs All Blacks on Sunday, we went to one of their neighbors to watch the game. The Aussies were gracious in defeat!!. The following week it was more work on the boat, time to get the hair cut and a night out at Greg and Janie's (Skeddaddle). For the Rugby World Cup final it was takeaways around at Gordon and Maree's, then celebration time at the end of a close game. Good on your boys.
This blog will be quiet for a while now while we fly to the States, UK and NZ.
Photo: Champagne sundowners on Whitehaven Beach.
Airlie Beach is predominately a tourist town, dedicated to getting people out to the islands for diving, snorkeling, swimming and generally enjoying what the Whitsundays is all about. There are a host of backpacker hostels and accommodation in town. After a busy day reprovisoning, doing laundry, cleaning the boat and going out for dinner, we left Abel Point Marina, Airlie Beach on 16th Sept and sailed 6nm north to Woodwark Bay.
Woodwark Bay is on the mainland and is a deep, pretty bay with bush down to the water, fringing coral reef and sandy beaches. We had afternoon drinks on Waimea with Gordon, Maree and two of their friends, Cathy and Tony, who were also in the bay. The following morning there were several large pods of dolphins feeding for several hours, in fact they were still there when we left. We had a great close hauled 14nm sail across to Langford Island for lunch. After lunch we took the dinghy ashore for a walk on the sand cay and snorkeled off the beach, there were lots of different types of coral, fish and a turtle to swim with. Then it was back to the boat for a shower and off to Stonehaven Bay on Hook Island for the night. We picked up one of the public moorings, there to protect the reef, and spent a quiet night.
The following morning we motored around the top of Hook Island to Butterfly Bay, again using a public mooring. Brian and Gordon went for a dive off the reef at the head of the bay first, then we all snorkeled the inner reef. Later in the afternoon whilst we were having drinks, an old sailing ship, which we guessed was the replica of the Bounty, under full sail went across the bay a little way out unfortunately, but, through the binoculars she looked spectacular. After a quiet night, we headed to Manta Ray bay early the following morning. The snorkeling at Mantra Ray bay was the best we had seen, the corals and fish were amazing, at one point we had about 5 Maori Wrasse about one metre in length, swimming around us with a myriad of reef fish, oh for an underwater camera; maybe Santa! After our permitted 2 hrs on the public mooring, we moved to Luncheon Bay, about 600 metres away for lunch. Whilst in the bay we had turtles playing around the boat and off the head of the bay, through the binoculars we saw a large whale cruising past. From Luncheon we had a look at Butterfly Bay for the night, but with no available moorings we went back around to Stonehaven. Again off Butterfly Bay we saw a single whale cruising past.
In the early hours of the following morning, we both woke to the sound of 'whalesong'; whales somewhere close singing to each other, awesome. The following morning in flat seas, sunshine and no wind, we motored around to Blue Pearl Bay, Hayman Island. The snorkeling at Blue Pearl Bay was on a par with Manta Ray Bay and in some areas the corals were more plentiful and varied, the fish were also in abundance, at times it was like swimming in an aquarium. Wednesday morning, as we came up on deck a humpback whale breached 200m off our stern, a great way to start the day. However it just got better, more whales were seen cruising past, then a pod of 10 pilot whales came through the anchorage 50 m from the boat, a large turtle came up to see what was happening and several large fish, known locally as 'bat fish', were swimming around the boat; natures own seaworld. Brian and Gordon then went for one of the best dives so far off Dolphin Point and as we were leaving the bay 2 adult humpback whales with a calf cruised past, we followed them for a while. What a morning.
After all the activity in Blue Pearl Bay, we motored with no wind to South Molle. We went ashore at South Molle and walked to the top of Spion Kop, also known as the 'horn' and then onto Mt Jefferies. On the way we scared a brown snake which shot in front of Maree and Gail probably scaring them more. The island has lots of Curlews (birds), who think that if they stand very still you can't see them, we stood and watched one for several minutes and it never even moved its eyes. On the way back to the boats we walked through the resort on the island, it was depressing, there were very few guests and most of the resort venues were closed, including the bar, so much for our anticipated beer after the walk!
We left South Molle 22nd Sept and sailed 9nm under headsail only to Nara Inlet. At the head of the inlet is a short walk to an aboriginal cave and ancestral site, the cave has some aboriginal art visible and there are a couple of information boards giving information on the Ngaro people. Sitting on deck Friday morning there was a loud squawk and we both looked around to see what bird had landed on the boat, sitting on our back stay was a sulphur crested cockatoo happily watching us, he was in no hurry to move. Later as we were having drinks on the back deck with Gordon and Maree, we watched a mother and kid goat walk and skip up and down what appeared to be a smooth cliff face with no effort at all.
Saturday we motored 9nm across to Homestead Bay, Cid Island for the day. The anchorage wasn't the most pleasant with the wind coming in; we left after lunch and went around to Cid Harbour on Whitsunday Is for the night. We listened to the All Blacks vs France and NZ Warriors vs Melbourne Storm (League semi final), good wins for both the NZ teams. Early Sunday morning, with no wind, clear blue skies and sun we motored around to Whitehaven beach. On the way we encountered a whale with its calf about 100m from the boat, we never tire of seeing them.
Whitehaven beach is about 3kms of pure white sand that squeaks as you walk on it, there is no fringing coral so getting ashore is easy. We walked half the beach, swam in the clear blue water and later had a swim from the boat. The weather was perfect and we decided to stay for the night. The following day we walked the other half of the beach after breakfast, then had champagne sundowners ashore in the evening. Life doesn't get much better than this. With 24 - 48hrs of stronger SE winds in the forecast, we headed for our safe anchorage of Cid Harbour the next day, stopping in Tongue Bay for morning tea, a walk to the lookout over Hill Inlet and down to Betty's Beach, lunch, a swim and off to Cid. To get there we had to go through Hook Passage, each time we have gone through we have been lucky with the tide and were again this time as we shot through at 10.6 knots, riding the eddies, tide overflows and whirlpools as we went. It reminds Brian or French Pass between Durville Island and the mainland in the Marlborough sounds. Brian and Gordon had some male time and walked to the top of Whitsunday peak again while the girls happily stayed on the boats, swam, read and pottered.
With a northerly wind change, it was off to Macona hoping the forecast was correct and there was no southerly component to the wind, given our last two experiences in the anchorage. We stayed 2 nights, went for walks on the beach and the boys tried to catch some barramundi, but despite seeing them, they failed to land one. Saturday had a southerly change in the forecast so we went around to Nara Inlet.
It was a perfect day and night in Nara, no breeze until about 8am Sunday when we upped anchor and had a great reaching sail across to Airlie Beach to provision, fuel and laundry before heading further north to Townsville on Monday. We could also get TV reception in Airlie to support the NZ Warriors in the rugby league grand final.
Next update will be from Townsville before we head off to visit family in USA, UK and NZ.
Photo: Whale tail, diving to go deep.
First day of September and first official day of spring, we left Mackay and sailed 26nm wing on wing to Brampton Island. Brampton is heavily wooded with many walking tracks and a resort that has only recently closed down. We went ashore the following morning for a walk along the foreshore, met the local kangaroos, one with a joey who on seeing us was very keen on getting back into mothers pouch. After the walk we decided to move onto Goldsmith Island which offered better protection for the upcoming 25 - 30 knots of wind predicted for the weekend. We managed to wing on wing sail the 14 nm to Goldsmith and on the way saw 2 whales, one which was playful and breaching; yet again we missed the breach with the camera.
Goldsmith was a great place to wait out the SE winds that arrived over the weekend. As we sat happily in the bay, we watched a float plane take off and land, there are a couple of holiday homes on an island in the bay, went for walks on the sandy beaches and watched whales playing in the distance. The wind finally eased so on Tuesday 6th September we sailed 9nm to Thomas Island for a day stop. Thomas is a picturesque island where, when there is no breeze in the bay, snorkeling is good. We did get ashore for a walk on 2 of the beaches and the guys collected rock oysters, those that weren't eaten fresh were to be consumed at afternoon drinks. After lunch we sailed a further 3nm to Shaw Island, a more secure, less swell affected bay and therefore better for overnight anchoring.
We enjoyed 2 very peaceful nights at Shaw Island and went for walks along the beaches and across to the ocean side of the island. The water was also clear and warm enough for swimming. This part of the Whitsunday Islands is more popular than the southern islands and is also accessible to the many charter boats in the area; therefore we are now seeing more boats than we have for a while. Thursday morning we left Shaw at 08:30 and sailed 4nm to nearby Boat Port Bay, Lindeman Island and went ashore with Gordon and Maree spending the next 4 hours walking the various tracks on Lindeman to Coconut Beach, the Lagoon, Mt Oldfield summit and Gap beach. Returning to the dinghy the tide had gone out a looooong way and the 4 of us carried the dinghy back to the water in stages, we then left, returning to Shaw Island for the night.
The following morning we left early with no wind, clear blue sunny skies and hardly a ripple on the water and headed to Whitehaven Beach. Gordon and Maree, Waimea, were approx. half a mile in front of us when we saw a whale surface off their stern, Brian grabbed the camera and headed up to the foredeck as the whale was heading towards us. It turned out to be a mother and calf so there was probably no possibility of a breach, but they came within 15 - 20 m of us and we managed to get some good photos of the tail as she dived deep. We anchored at the world renowned Whitehaven Beach for lunch, a walk and a swim. The beach was full of activity with seaplanes landing and taking off, charter boats full of guests, even a wedding with the bride arriving in a helicopter complete with bridal gown. Later in the afternoon with Whitehaven known for a swell, we moved to Makona Inlet on Hook Island for the night.
About 03:15am the wind increased and was blowing into the anchorage, a couple of charter boats dragged on their anchors and came adrift both narrowly missing us as they went past. We spent the rest of the night on anchor watch, not because of our anchor which was firmly on the botton but because of the charter boats, one of which decided to do circles around us in the dark and when we told him to move away he informed us he had lost his anchor!!! We are not sure what he expected us to do about it. At daybreak and after a very early breakfast, we left Makona and went across to Cid Harbour on Whitsunday Island, very pleasant after Makona. The following morning, Sunday 11th, we went ashore at 10:00 and walked to the top of Whitsunday Peak, a 4 hour round trip up a boulder staircase, through bush following the path of a dried stream. The view from the top was worth the walk, we could see most of the Whitsunday Islands, a dark green against the azure blue of the water.
Monday morning we left early and motored to Cataran Bay, Border Island. Cataran Bay has shelving reef protected by a marine reserve, therefore we anchored outside the reef protection buoys. We did a short walk ashore to the top of the saddle, then a snorkel on the reef before lunch. The reef had many types of soft and hard coral with an abundance of all types of fish, including big parrot fish, coral trout and 'nemo's'. We left Border early afternoon and went to Makona for the night with the intention of spending Tuesday there, unfortunately the following morning the wind increased with too much south to make Makona comfortable, so we went back to Cid Harbour.
We spent a lazy day at Cid Harbour, reading, playing cards, backgammon, having afternoon drinks and being entertained by the antics of boats around us. The following day we did the short bush walk over the ridge to Dugong inlet, another sandy beach. The next day it was off to Airlie Beach, Able Point marina, for one night to restock and do laundry. It was the best reaching sail in 15 - 25 knot east to south easterlies we have had for a while, even had to put a reef in the main. After Airlie we plan to do the more northern islands in the Whitsunday group before heading for Townsville at the end of September.
Photo: 'A' Frame hut, West Bay, Middle Percy Island.
Port Clinton is surrounded by military land and is closed when the Australian armed forces have exercises in the area; it is isolated, remote and quiet and had just re-opened after extensive exercises with the Americans. We stayed in Port Clinton for a week while a weather system went through, enjoying the peace and tranquility. The area is extensive mangroves with sandy beaches, although the sandy beaches were not in the South Arm which is where we were for the better weather protection. We had the wind but no wave action in the anchorage so were very comfortable. Gordon and Maree put their crab pots out and caught two nice sized mud crabs, which we had for lunch one day, very nice. Other people in the anchorage where quite successful at fishing, although we talked about it we didn't try. We did go for a walk along what appeared to be a public road through the military land, the signs warning of live firing, unexploded missiles and devices seemed to indicate the road was OK but not to venture into the bush.
Without a water maker we don't know what our water usage is, so we are being conservative, maybe too conservative. There is a 'competition' to see who can use the least amount of water for a shower, which leads to who has the first shower, as this is usually quite cold; by the time the water has warmed up, the shower is over. Salt water dips and washes using salt water soap and shampoo are not an option with signs around warning of crocodiles. We haven't seen any, but we think we have heard them.
Finally a week after we arrived; the wind dropped and on a misty, rainy morning we left Port Clinton and dropped anchor 3nm north in Pearl Bay, which according to the cruising guides is one of the nicest bays on this part of the coast, not today though. We stayed in Pearl Bay for 2 nights, the second day the mist and rain cleared and the sun came out, revealing the true beauty of the bay. We took the dinghy ashore for a couple of walks on the long sandy beaches and in the evening listened to the All Blacks playing the Wallabies in the Tri Nations decider on a scratchy am station. Unfortunately Brian thinks the All Blacks lost but says he "still isn't sure" through all the static!!! Very Patriotic. There is no phone, TV or internet reception in Pearl Bay, one of the few isolated places we have discovered, the bay did have at least one dugong and some turtles happily swimming around. Again Pearl Bay is surrounded by military land so we could not venture further than the beaches. We decided at afternoon drinks to leave early the following morning to arrive at Island Head Creek on a rising tide. How plans change, we awoke to thick fog, no way were we going to attempt entering Island Head Creek without clear visibility. After a quick discussion on the radio with Gordon and Maree, Waimea, we decided to abandon Island Head Creek and go to the Percy Islands, so it was anchors up and we were away on a 55nm trip. Unfortunately for us, the auto pilot decided it did not want to go, so we hand steered all the way to West Bay, Middle Percy Island. The following day, however we turned the auto pilot on again and it worked perfectly, ooh the joys of boating. On the way we saw one whale breeching, again we were too slow with the camera and missed the photo, we'll keep trying as the whales will be around until late October as they migrate back to Antarctica after breeding in the warm waters of the Whitsunday Islands.
West Bay, Middle Percy Island, is a must stop for most boaties going up and down the Queensland coast, although the anchorage is very prone to swell and can be very unpleasant. Luckily for us, the conditions were perfect with little to no swell in the bay. Middle Percy Island has a lot of history to it as it is an island that still is inhabited. There is one homestead and a couple of other dwellings, but although it has been farmed in the past, it is now part of the national parks network. We walked up the hill to the homestead and chatted to Kathy, who lives there with her husband, surrounded by goats, chickens, dogs, peacocks and pea hens. Down on the beach there is an A frame hut that was erected back in the 1970's and has hundreds if not thousands of pieces of boat memorabilia, left over the years by boaties with their and their boat names, out the back there is a BBQ area and a shower. It is hard to describe the place, we spent almost an hour reading the messages and looking at all the memorabilia. Next door there is a tree house and another smaller building with older memorabilia. At one end of the beach is a boat harbour that totally dries out at low tide, with tides of 5 metres it is not an issue getting in, but only vessels that can sit on the bottom through low tide could use it with the homesteads permission.
Tuesday 30th August, 06:30 we upped anchor from Middle Percy Island in rain and motor sailed 67 nm to Mackay Marina for reprovisioning, laundry, fuel and water before heading for the Whitsunday Islands. On approaching Mackay, we had to thread our way through 30+ ships anchored and moving outside the port, they are very big when you are close to them, and seeing an AIS target doing 74knots we quickly worked out it was the helicopter transferring pilots between ships.
Next update from the Whitsundays.