04/25/2012, In Route To Great Keppel Island
First, for the benefit of our kids, let me say that both your mom and I are healthy and happy. The title of this blog is not about one of us. Instead, it is about an Australian guest that came aboard last night. Alas, our guest passed away this morning and following the traditions of the sea, we conducted a burial at sea. I wish I could have draped an Australian flag over the body before we slid it overboard but, after 6 months of fluttering in the breezes, our Australian courtesy flag that is flying up by the first spreader is nothing more than a swatch of blue with a few stars and a bit of red and white stripes.
Anyway, when I got up this morning, I went to the top of the helm to adjust how the third reef line ties onto the boom. That is when I found our guest. He was still alive but was having a hard time keeping his head up. Most of the time he was just sitting there with his beady little eyes closed.
I am not sure what type of sea bird he was. He was about the size of a morning dove but with a black body and wings and a patch of white on top of his head. He had webbed feet.
After watching him for a bit, I went below to get the camera and I took some pictures of him. I will post one of them when we next have Internet.
I left him alone in the hopes that he would recover and fly away. When I returned about a half hour later he had keeled over and was lying there with his little web feet sticking straight up into the air. This is when the burial at sea occurred as I picked him up by his feet and tossed him into the drink. So much for our morning excitement!
This afternoon we weighed anchor at 1500. We carefully made our way across the lagoon, zigzagging past the coral heads and then through the narrow channel. While the winds were very good in the morning, (i.e. 15 to 20 knots) by 1530 they had moderated to about 10 knots from the SE. Since our course is to the WNW, they are, once again, basically behind us. We have about 5 knots of apparent wind. The apparent wind was so light that we decided not even to put up the sails since the winds have been dying down some during the night.
Our sail is just 90 nm and at 5 knots, it should take us about 18 hours. We should arrive sometime around 0900 or 1000, depending on the current. Our position at 1830 is 23 48.06'S: 152 07.4'E. Our course is 290 True and speed is about 5.2 knots with low RPMs. The seas are only about a meter from the SE with a 5 second period. Our destination is Great Keppel Island, about 7 nm west of the mainland.
04/24/2012, Lady Musgrave Island, Great Barrier Reef, AU
We were going to leave today for Great Keppel Island. However, when we woke, the trough was still here and the rain we had last night has been continuing. Thus, we decided to just hunker down and stay put. After all, why sail in the rain when you don't have to?
We have decided that when we do leave, we will be leaving around 1500 and do an overnight sail directly to Great Keppel Island. We were going to stop at Heron Island but I was reading in the cruising guide that the resort there does not like cruisers and they go out of their way to discourage cruisers from stopping. Bah hum bug to them!
This area of the Great Barrier Reef waters are well chartered and we have been told that night time sailing is safe this far south. It is about 100 nm to Great Keppel Island from here so if we leave at 1500 we should arrive early to mid-morning. We prefer to sail overnight than do back to back day sails. I guess we are funny that way. However, this way we don't have to get up and be underway by 0600 each day.
While the skies are still mostly overcast as I write this blog, the afternoon was actually pretty nice. The sun came out and played peek-a-boo with us as clouds passed by. As I gaze out looking through our salon windows, I actually am seeing a large fog bank approaching beyond the lagoon reef. It is about 5 miles away. This is the first time in 5 years of cruising we have seen fog. Go figure. Such strange weather!
As we hunkered down today, we continued our sewing on the shade tarp that we are making. While Mary Margaret plugged away at the hem, I decided to add nylon backing to where the grommets will be used to secure the tarp to the boat. This will add considerable strength to those areas of the tarp which will be under stress during windy days. This is when we both wish we had a sewing machine since after two straight days of hand stiching; we are getting tired of it. And just think, we still are only half done
04/23/2012, Lady Musgrave Island, Great Barrier Reef, AU
The day started out overcast and being able to see the sun today did not look promising. Yesterday late afternoon I had noticed a change in the cloud pattern and it looked to me that a trough was approaching from the south. However, the weather forecast that I get daily through SailMail, said that a weak trough would be passing by early Tuesday. What I was seeing was 36 hours early! However, the weather forecast was also saying that the winds would remain in the 10 to 15 knot range, day after day after day. Thus, I went to bed in hopes that the weather report was accurate and that my reading of the clouds was wrong.
When I woke up the skies were overcast and threatening. The trough had indeed arrived early. Fortunately, the winds were steady all day blowing between 10 and 15 knots. This is critical to us here in the lagoon in front of Lady Musgrave Island. If the winds blow 20 knots and above, the swells build and during high tide they just pass over the reef and make the lagoon a dangerous place to be. A boat will hobby-horse as the sharp short period swells pass by and then the anchor drags. The result is the possibly of being pushed into the leeward side of the lagoon's reef.
As the morning passed by the clouds darkened and we actually got some rain. However, it was not like anything that we were used to in the South Pacific Convergence Zone, where we had been cruising around for the previous two years. The rain was very mild and the winds behaved themselves.
With such a gloomy day, we decided to just stay onboard Leu Cat and hold a sewing bee! Yep, it was my first one ever. We have about 60 linear feet of hemming to do on our shade tarp that we are making. Thus, Mary Margaret and I took turns sewing, sewing and sewing some more all day long. By 1700, when we quit for the day, we had finished 20 feet. Added to the 10 feet I did yesterday, we have finished hemming two sides. The stitching is augmenting the grommets that I have put in.
During one of my breaks from hand stitching, I donned the hookah gear and went below to scrap off the barnacles that were growing on the bottom of the two keels. They were thick because I had scrapped off some of the anti-foul paint last year when I kissed the reef in Fiji. Without that anti-foul on the bottom of the keels, there was nothing preventing the barnacles from growing.
After removing the barnacles, I re-inspected the keels and was surprised that the underwater epoxy that I had applied, was still working great. I was planning on hauling out the boat in Mackay to reapply new epoxy. However, the keels are in such great shape that I am now going to wait until we park the boat in Malaysia at the end of the cruising season to do this. Yea! This means that we now have another week of sailing in the Whitsundays!!!! Plus, I will save over $2,000 to haul the boat and park it on the hard for a week.
04/22/2012, Lady Musgrave Island, Great Barrier Reef, AU
We are enjoying it here so much that we have decided to stay at least one additional day at Lady Musgrave Island. Furthermore, we have decided to spend more time along the Queensland coast (i.e., within the Great Barrier Reef) than what we originally planned.
Originally, we were going to do a series of day sails up the Queensland coast until we approached Cape York, at the tip of NE Australia. This included spending a couple of weeks in the Whitsundays and some rest stops as we dinged our way north. Once we rounded Cape York, we were going to be doing a series of two days sails across Northern Australia until we reached Darwin. After thinking about it, we decided that a better course of action is to spend more time in the Great Barrier Reef system and then just sail for 7 or so straight days between Lizard Island in the upper portion of the Great Barrier Reef and Darwin. Once we leave Lizard Island there is a well marked shipping channel that takes you to Cape York so night sailing is pretty safe. Plus, we just love long distance sailing and it is more restful for us than a series of two days sails.
This will give us about a 5 more days to spend in the Great Barrier Reef. Plus, instead of planning to arrive in Darwin around July 1st, we are now planning to arrive around July 8th. This will still give us plenty of time to get our Indonesia visa and attend the Sail Indonesia Rally meeting and social events before we sail for Indonesia on July 28th. We are still working out the details and contingency plans for bad weather but we think this will work out better for us.
We spent the day just around the boat. I started sewing in parts of the hem on our new shade tarp and really got into it. We did enjoy the water though. After lunch I started up the hookah and Mary Margaret and I returned to finishing cleaning the hull. I still need to remove some barnacles that are attached on the bottom of the keel but everything else is now looking pretty good.
We received a surprised visit this afternoon from the Marine Police and Customs. Using stealth, they came within a few feet of our boat and then just called out. We were both in the salon at the time so we ran out and greeted them. They were very nice and polite. They wanted our names, birth dates and asked if we were having any problems with our neighbors. We said that everyone is nice and quite and we had no complaints. We chatted and joked for a bit and then they left to check out the rest of the boats. We have been told that is common and to expect it a number of times as we make our way up the coast. They try to keep track of boats in their waters and are watching out for drugs being smuggled into their country.
04/21/2012, Lady Musgrave Island, Great Barrier Reef, AU
Based on the title of today's blog, I bet you have visions of me wearing deck shoes, tan Ralph Lauren pants, a white collared sport shirt, a blue blazer and an nifty captain's cap. Actually, I have seen a number of skippers dressed like this but they all were on mega-yachts. Instead, this old salt spends 99.9% of his time when cruising wearing an outfit consisting of a swimming suit and a pair of sunglasses. Sometime, when I get cool I'll put on a tee shirt and when we have guests over from sundowners, I will actually throw on either a Hawaiian shirt or a collared shirt with our boat name on it. Now that is really fancy! Dressing so casual is one of the many things I love about cruising.
Today was a repeat performance of yesterday. This time we swam over to two other reefs and explored them. The water was a bit murky with visibility only about 60 or so feet. But the fish were out and about and the colors of the various corals making up the reefs were beautiful.
While Mary Margaret and I were snorkeling, a boat with a deep bottom came slowly up to us and cruised by. When we looked at it underwater, we understood what he was doing. The part that was below water houses a viewing chamber and a number of people were glued to the windows looking at the reefs, fish and us. Now that is a view to treasure!!
When we returned to Leu Cat, we decided to start scrubbing down the hulls getting 6 months of crud that had accumulated while sitting in the marina at Port Bundaberg. I will need to don the hookah one of these days and do the same thing to the keels.
I spent the time between breakfast and snorkeling working out making a new shade cover. I miss lying in the shade in our hammock now that our old shade tarp died. Before we left Bundaberg, I went into town and bought a bunch of finely woven polypropylene shade material. It is beige and should work just fine until we return to the States where I will buy some Sunbrella and have one sewn in Malaysia. We do not have a sewing machine on board so I am hemming the edges using a million grummets. It is a lot of work and takes a lot of time but it should work great. After working on it after returning from snorkeling, I am about half way done.
Tomorrow, we will be weighing anchor in the afternoon and moving to the leeward side of the reef, outside of the lagoon. That way we can leave for our next destination early Monday morning and not have to worry about hitting a coral head on that we would not be able to see since the sun will just be coming up when we leave.
Techno-Tip Of The Day: Rubber Liners
Before you cast off the lines to start cruising, we recommend that you buy a couple of rolls of rubber liners. You can get these at most household stores or at a chandlery. However, at a chandlery, they will be more expensive.
Once you have them, you measure and cut pieces to line the tops of your cupboards where you will be storing stuff that my rattle. When you run your engine(s) or your generator, you will discover that things will start to vibrate and if you have a cupboard full of pots and pans, the noise will drive you absolutely crazy.
To maintain your sanity, place your pots and pans, glassware (or acrylic-ware as the case maybe), dishes, and anything else that may rattle on top of the rubber mat-like liners. They work great. Plus, any leftover you may have can be used as placemats for those days of rough seas when you want to make sure that nothing will slide off the dining table.
04/20/2012, Lary Musgrave Island, Great Barrier Reef, AU
We are in paradise again. There is just something magical about anchoring in a lagoon. There is the sound the waves constantly crashing against the outside of the reef, the view of those waves bursting up into the sky: throwing spume up high into the sky, the wind gently blowing through your hair, the surreal colors of the lagoon water, the blue sky with puffy white clouds passing overhead. Man, life just does not get better than this!
I wish we could teleport each of you to our boat to experience this first hand. It is something that you would never forget and would dream about for the rest of your lives. For those of you who have visited us on our boat, you know exactly what I mean. For those of you who have not yet come, it is something to look forward to. Each of you has a standing invitation to visit us and spend a week with us in paradise: whenever and wherever that may be. This adventure of ours is very special and needs to be shared because it is so special.
Today we finally, after about 6 months of waiting, were able to get into the water. It was heavenly! The temperature of the water is about 80 degrees, making it just wonderful.
We donned our stinger suits, hopped into the dinghy and motored over near Lady Musgrave Island. We spied a couple of large coral patches and explored one of them. We spent about an hour in the water, enjoyed the multifaceted colors of the coral and watched numerous fish. We had brought a couple of pieces of bread that had gotten wet when I defrosted one of our refrigerators overnight. The fish loved it and I took lots of pictures of them swarming over each of us.
Tomorrow, we hope to return to explore the other large coral patch and see what we can find. It was just heavenly to be in the water again.
The day ended perfectly with a delicious dinner made by Mary Margaret which included grilled steak, pasta pesto, vegetable medley and a fresh, crisp salad. I had indulged myself before dinner with a Cuban cigar and my nightly Manhattan as I just stared out at the breakers rolling into the reef from the forward cockpit. Life is good and we are well on Leu Cat, cruising again!!!
04/19/2012, Lary Musgrave Island, Great Barrier Reef, AU
Since we wanted to anchor in the coral head infested lagoon at Lady Musgrave Island, we needed to arrive there while the sun was still high. This allows us to easily spot the coral and avoid them. Thus, this morning we cast off the dock lines at 0530 and motored down the Burnett River and out the shipping channel to deeper water of Hervey Bay. There were just light winds blowing 9 to 13 knots from the south. By the time we were in deep water and had the sails up, it was 0630.
Since we were heading almost due north, the light winds were dead behind us. Thus we motored sailed with one engine running on low RPMs (about 2200 rpms) and the sails in a wing and wing configuration. We had an apparent wind of between 4 and 7 knots. We averaged about 6 knots.
The skies were clear, sunny and bright. The water was its wonderful dark ocean blue. Soon we were out of sight of land. Ahhhh cruising again!
It was an easy sail although we did lose our wind around 1400. Thus we rolled in the Genoa and made the last 6 nm with only the main. We arrived just outside Lady Musgrave around 1500 and dropped the main. We then motored the last couple of miles around to the NW corner of the fringing reef, where the channel into the lagoon was located.
We could see a number of boats anchored in the lagoon and as we approached the channel, the commercial boat, which tourists take from the town of Gladstone, motored out at high speed. She comes in the morning and leaves around 1530 after spending the day.
Since we arrived a couple of hours past low tide, the channel carried about 2 knots of current flooding into the lagoon. Not too bad but I had to keep my speed up to maintain steerage. The channel was very narrow but was very visible so we had no problems negotiating it. The coral heads were easily spotted and between Mary Margaret sitting on the pulpit seat on one of the bows and I up on the flying bridge deck, we motored around them without a problem. This is where the Lagoon 440 has a clear advantage over most other catamarans. You steer the boat from a helm that is about 10 feet above the water and you have a 360 degree view. This lets you see the coral heads very well.
We dropped anchor in about 25 feet of water on to a nice sandy bottom. By the time the engines were cool and we had squared away the boat from our sail, it was 1600. To celebrate our first sail of the season, I cracked open an ice cold beer and we munched on some nice salty corn chips. Yumm!
Lady Musgrave Island is the southern entrance to the Great Barrier Reef. As we approached, Mary Margaret commented that it reminded her of the Sand Blas Islands, off the coast of Panama, in the Caribbean. The island is ringed with a bright white sandy beach, topped with trees and brush and a string of little islands trailing off to the northwest.
By the time I had polished off the cold beer, it was too late to go swimming but I did check the water temperature and even stuck my toe in to confirm the reading. Yep, it was 80 degrees alright. This is the warmest water we have been in since Fiji last summer. Tomorrow, we look forward to getting in the water again. This is what Mary Margaret loves best!