05/14/2012, Anchored At Butterfly Bay, Hook Is., AU
A ridge of high pressure has moved over us and the skies reflected that fact: pure blue with not a cloud in sight. However, the high pressure ridge also brings strong winds and these are accented with the bullets that shoot over the mountain ridge in front of us and pass through our anchorage. It is a never ending pattern of relative calmness punctuated by gusts striking us at 25+ knots for a few seconds.
Today, we decided to stay near our boat and explore the reefs that fringe the shore of our anchorage. We knew the bullets would be making the trip to other dive spots unpleasant so why not just fall off our boat and swim to the reef near the shore?
The water was just a bit cooler today, around 77 degrees but still it was great to be swimming again. We trolled up and down the shore, working our way along the reef and the rocks that jutted out about 50 feet from the shore. The water was a bit murkier due to the winds and the fish were neither quite as varied nor plentiful but we still enjoyed ourselves. At one point Mary Margaret called me over and pointed out a huge giant clam. It was so fat that it could not fully close itself when I dove down and got close to it. That or it was just so large that it was not threatened by my presence. Instead of being bright blue and black, like the other giant clams we have seen, this one was shades of green and black. I took a photo of it and I hope it turned out given the murky water.
The other highlight was that Mary Margaret spotted a large sea turtle swimming under her. She called me over but by the time I arrived, the sea turtle had dived down deep and was no longer in view. Darn!
We spent over an hour in the cool water enjoying the sights and our swim. At that time, I was getting a bit chilled. Mary Margaret was so enjoying herself that I suggested that she stay out since we were only a few hundred yards from our boat but she decided to call it a day also.
This morning, the boat S/V Tin Tin came into our anchorage. We had first met Isabel and Guillermo in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador back in 2009. We have bumped into them a few times since then in Tahiti, Tonga, New Zealand and a few days ago at Middle Percy Island. We had come in during the late afternoon but they had left early the next day so we never got a chance to get together.
They had dinghied over in the morning and we enjoyed catching up a bit. When they left, they invited us over to their boat around 1600 or 1700 for coffee. Thus, after our swim today and a rest, we hopped into our dinghy and motored over.
They shared with us not only coffee but a number of photos that they have taken, including those that captured the two of them back in Spain, before they started cruising 6 years ago. The photos were awesome and we enjoyed the slide show very much.
We hope the winds will abate some tomorrow so we can dive out at some of the more exposed locations. If not, then we will just enjoy the views and maybe swim out to the point to the west of us to check out that reef.
05/13/2012, Anchored At Butterfly Bay, Hook Is., AU
Because Dave does most of the blogs I thought since it was my special day I would write it today! My treat to Dave, since he has spoiled me today, by cooking all day. It has been lovely! The day started out being a little over cast and cloudy but cleared up by noon time and we went snorkeling! Oh boy! What a wonderful treat for me today! I love the water and we have missed swimming soooo much!
Dave has read about the reefs around here and we took the dingy to one of them. Unfortunately, the winds were too strong there. I was afraid of being tossed into the rocks and shore. So, Dave chose to go across the bay to a more sheltered area. Once there we hopped into the water. It was almost 78 degrees, a little cool but it was lovely being in the water again! The reef was beautiful. Dave took lots of pictures and will post them when we have internet. We saw lots of coral. There were all types and some soft coral as well. The colors were a little subdued since the water was very stirred up from the rain and wind. However, it was still very pretty to see. The colors ranged from buff tan to bright orange and dark purple to a very light pink with green and yellows thrown in! We saw lots of great fish as well. They were not afraid of us at all. We would swim through schools of them and they would swim in front of our faces and barely not bump into us! It was very cute! We saw a two foot parrot fish which was the largest fish I saw today. There were a bunch of small sergeant major fish, angel fish and tons of little minnows, along with smaller parrot fish. It was a very healthy and happy reef!
When we came back it was still early afternoon so we both rested and then did a few chores around the boat. We read, lay in the hammock and played cards. Is there anything nicer to do on a beautiful day in paradise? Dave, made a wonderful stir fry dinner and we had an early cruisers evening. My Mother's Day was a very special one - my children were with me throughout the day - in my heart (always) and in my thoughts while swimming. A perfect day!
All of our best wishes to all of you mothers out there and hope your day was as lovely as mine. Until we speak again Happy Mother's Day!
05/12/2012, Anchored At Butterfly Bay, Hook Is., AU
We had high hopes this morning that the weather would clear and we could start checking out the various great snorkeling spots that we are near to. First, when we got up this morning the skies were relatively clear. Second, when I downloaded our daily weather report using SailMail (we no longer have Internet access), the report had removed the references to scatter showers for today and the next two days. Furthermore, the general write up was more positive regarding the coming of a new high pressure system and there was no mention of a trough coming on Monday or Tuesday.
Alas, as the morning progressed the skies became more and more cloudy and by early afternoon the sky had become overcast and we had already had the first of what was to become three brief sprinkles. Check that, make it 4 sprinkles. While I was writing this, I had to run out and close the hatches again as it is once more drizzling
When you snorkel, having good sunlight really makes a very big difference in the visibility of the water and the colors of the fish and coral. Thus, with the cloudy and then overcast skies, we bit our lips and decided to continue waiting for a better day. Fortunately, we have two and half more weeks here before we push on north so we can afford to wait until the better weather arrives.
As we watched the weather pass into a gloomy day, I put up the shade tarp (or should I now call it the overcast tarp). It took a while to get the various lines made so that it would cover the front of the boat and be taunt enough to withstand the burst of winds that we get. However, it is up now and I have the hammock gently rocking underneath it. It was wonderful to be able to lay there and not worry about getting too hot or sunburned. Although, today having the tarp up really did not protect me much since there was not much sun. Oh well, maybe now that it is up it will attract the sun and clear skies!
Speaking of burst of winds, at each of the anchorages we have gone to where the island is hilly, we get bursts of high winds followed by no wind. Here in Australia they call these bursts bullets since they just shoot down from the hills at you. There seems to be no periodicity to them but when they hit, you know it. You go from 0 to 25 knots with each burst. Especially at this anchorage, the guide book recommends that one should do not leave towels or bathing suits out on the lifelines to dry even if you use a lot of cloth pins. Apparently, there is a history of people losing their suits to these bullets and the suits washing up and littering the shore.
Mary passed her time today by doing a load of laundry. From what we did today, I bet you are just dying to join us in cruising so that you too can have all this excitement! However, if one has to kill time, this anchorage is the place to do it since it is so beautiful with the clear water and the hills that tower over us that are green with a cover of red gum trees.
We did have a nice visitor stop by and give us a long look. He was a sea turtle and swam close up to Leu Cat so he and we could get a good look at each other. We have seen a number of sea turtles in various anchorages. Some have been huge with a shell that is well over four feet long. This fellow was a young adult since his shell was only about three feet long.
Techno-Tip Of The Week: Backup Anchor Light
As you know, we lost our mast head light (anchor light) the other day. It is less than a year old and it has just stopped working. I get very nervous anchoring at night without an anchor light. We know that some people will come into or leave an anchorage at night and if you do not have some type of light marking the location of your boat, you run the risk of a collision.
I remember when we were anchored off St. Martin in the Caribbean 4 years ago and we had to leave the anchorage at around 2200 to return to Tortola in the BVIs during daylight the next day. As we left, we almost ran into two boats that where anchored about ½ mile behind us since neither one had their anchor lights on and it was pitch black out. We were very lucky to miss them since we did not see either of them until we were right on top of them.
Anyway, as a backup, we use these solar driveway lights that are flat and are placed along your driveway to light it. They work great and we get 10 to 12 hours of light from them. The only problem is that you can only see them when you are within about 500 or so feet. As an emergency, they are fine but you should try to get something more powerful if you can.
We kept our old mast head light on board as a spare. When the new mast head light stopped working I just rewired the old one to a 12 volt plug and plugged it into the 12 volt socket we have up at the helm on the flying bridge deck. I then hang it from the lazy jacks about 10 feet above the boom. I will continue to sleep well at night until our new mast head light is fixed knowing that other boats can see us even in the worst of weather and in the blackest of nights.
05/11/2012, Anchored At Butterfly Bay, Hook Is., AU
We took yesterday off and since the weather was rather unsettled, we just relaxed. Mary Margaret did her favorite pastime (reading), and since I can't keep still, I finished sewing the hem on our shade tarp. Hooray! It is done.
This morning, while I was opening up the sail cover, I heard the fellow on the nearest boat yell my name. It was a blue hulled monohull that I did not recognize. I waved back and continued my work since we were anxious to head out. After we started the engines and turned on the chartplotter, their boat came up on our AIS. They had since weighed anchor and were heading in the general direction of the mainland. I looked up their boat on the AIS and discovered it was Michael and Susan of S/V Infini. We last saw them in the Outer Tuomotos (French Polynesia) almost two years ago. At that time, they had just come northwest from Easter Island. They were about to head over to Hawaii. Talk about an unconventional route to get here!
As we were raising the mainsail, prior to weighing anchor, Susan hailed us on the VHF. They had just arrived yesterday from a direct sail from Bundaberg. They had sailed from New Zealand to Bundaberg. Susan said they were heading over the Airlie to fill their fuel tank before continuing north. She said that they were heading to Darwin to participate in the Sail Indonesia Rally.
I said that we were not planning to head north until around June 1 and then spend about a month dinging up the coast until we get to Lizard Island. From there we would be heading directly to Darwin. I told her there really isn't much to do in Darwin as they waited for the rally to start. Plus, they were missing some of the best diving and snorkeling areas in Australia by skipping the Whitsundays. I know they are avid divers and to my statement she said maybe they would reconsider and meet us out here. We will have to wait and see.
We weighed anchor at 0700 and sailed out of the anchorage. The winds were 15 to 20 knot from the SE (where else???) but this time, we were heading in a more NNW direction and had a great broad reach. Leu Cat was frisky and rearing to go after spending so many days just running with the wind. She made an average of between 8 and 9 knots and once caught a puff and zoomed up to 14 knots. The seas were mild and behind us so it was just an absolutely great sail. The best one we have had in Australia.
We were heading to the north side of Hook Island which was about 36 nm from our anchorage at Shaw Island. We pulled into Butterfly Bay at 1130, making the 36 nm in just 4.5 hours.
We can see why the Whitsundays are the best sailing destination in Australia. In sailing through and around the islands here you would go mostly east and west and north and south. Thus, the south easterlies would make for great sailing angles no matter where you went. Plus, the islands are very scenic with rugged, wood covered hills, a number of great looking beaches and numerous nooks and coves.
Last night our anchor light stopped working so I spent this afternoon jerry rigging our old anchor light so that we could use that while we wait to find a place with an electrician to fix the one that stopped working. It is only a year old so I don't I think the wiring at the top of the mast is bad. I have voltage leading to the mast.
The weather was squirrely today so we did not want to go snorkel in such unsettled weather. We may have to wait a number of days to go diving since the weather is suppose to deteriorate through early next week as the ridge we have been enjoying falls apart and gets replaced with a trough. Isn't that the way it goes we finally arrive, all hot and lathered to go diving and we get to wait. Oh well, we have the time and it is such a beautiful anchorage.
05/09/2012, Shaw Island, Near Burning Point
We left Scawfell Island at a "leisurely" hour: 0700. We could have left later but Mary Margaret wanted to get to our next anchorage early in the afternoon. We had thought we would be going to Thomas Island but by 0900 the winds had picked up and were blowing 20 knots from the SE. At 20 knots, we had read that the anchorage there would be rolly. We have had our share of rolly anchorages so we opted to go a bit further and make our anchorage at the SW side of Shaw Island. It is well protected from the swells that typically wrap around many of the islands that lie off Queensland.
It was a great sail as our heading was more WNW than NW so the SE winds were perfect for a wing and wing configuration and we really did not have to keep trimming the sails as we went. While the winds were still behind us (we were running with the wind), they behaved themselves and we were able to make 6.5 knots through the water. We actually went only about 6 to 5.5 knots over the ground since we were bucking a 0.5 to 1.0 current most of the time. However, it was really nice to be sailing and not have the noise of the engine growling in the background.
As we made our passage, S/V Miss Behaving slowly approached us from behind. We were basically on the same course. When it came close to us, I called Justine on the VHF radio and discovered that they were heading to Lindeman Island, which is just north of Shaw. From there, they will be going to Hamilton Island since his wife's mother, Dot, will be leaving them from there.
Miss Behaving is a 55 foot monohull and they were flying their Yankee and Jib in a wing in wing configuration with no main. They were making about 0.1 to 0.2 knots more than us and slowly cut across our stern to pass us. It was a pretty sight to behold. We hope to bump into them again somewhere in the Whitsundays.
As we started to pass some of the southernmost islands of the Whitsunday group, it started to look more and more like the British Virgin Islands. We think the BVI's is one of the best, if not the best sailing grounds in the world. It typically has winds in the 15 to 20 knot range, there are numerous islands with great anchorages, wonderful snorkeling and dive spots, and if you want fine restaurants and marinas, you can find that too. From what we have read about the Whitsundays, it sounds like you can have it all here also!
About 1400 we complete our 44 nm run and pulled into our anchorage. There was just one other catamaran here. After the last two anchorages having about 7 or 8 other boats, this was sheer bliss. While we love to socialize with other cruisers, we really look forward to having an anchorage to ourselves and chillin' as we enjoy the solitude and the raw beauty by ourselves. The other boat is about ¼ mile from us so it is like we have the whole place to ourselves.
As an added benefit, it I take the computer up to the helm and plug in our wifi dongle, we can also get Internet here. Man, are we in seventh heaven or what! If the Internet holds tomorrow, I will start to upload and post the various photos we have taken since we left Keppel Bay Marina. I have a lot to post so tomorrow promises to be a busy day...