18 November 2011 | Urangan
02 November 2011 | Mackay
25 September 2011 | Cairns
11 April 2011 | Bookar Island
31 March 2011 | Mooloolaba
19 March 2011 | Scarborough
17 February 2011 | Scarborough
10 February 2011 | Wynnum Manly Yacht Clum
The return trip
18 November 2011 | Urangan
Since we last updated the blog we’ve been flying south. Pleasingly we DID learn our lesson after the nightmare 34 hour sail bashing into the wind - and have been much more careful with picking our times for moving and it has really paid off.
We now find ourselves sitting (very briefly) at Urangan in Hervey Bay having spent a great couple of days at Lady Musgrave Island - a coral cay about 35 nm offshore. There were thousands of nesting Black Noddies (who happily ignored the bipeds tramping around perving up at them), the resident White-bellied Sea-eagle on a beacon structure which was the highest perch to be found on the cay, copulating turtles right next to our boat (…all I can say is be thankful you are not a female of the species who looked as though she was being drowned), the big fresh turtle tracks up the beach ending in large depressions where they’d laid and buried their eggs, gorgeous sea colours, enormous reef (bit so so for snorkeling actually), watching the rescue of a runaway dinghy (good for an evening’s entertainment, especially when the rescuers engine died… for a while there it looked like we also had copulating tenders).
With a promising wind change, we headed off a day earlier than planned and had a fast and fabulous overnight sail down to Hervey Bay during which we had a Brown Booby (big sea bird) hitch a ride with us for the entire night from sundown to sunup.... which took him about 100km away from home. He kindly left his copious poop deposits all over our tender .... he must have had a tummy upset from all our crashing through the waves because it looked like a flock of pelicans had used it as a toilet (think projectile vomiting but a different part of the anatomy... as he wasn't sitting on the tender but that is where it all landed).
Another interesting experience north of Gladstone was sailing down the Narrows – a passage between Curtis Island and the mainland. A 6 nautical mile section of the Narrows dries out to about 2 meters so your run has to be carefully timed for high tide at that section. Once we’d done our calculations to the millimeter (so it seemed) we motored through with a minimum of anxiety – probably aided by the deeper keeled yacht wending its way through just ahead of us! I had wanted to get a photograph…. but the anxiety levels didn’t extend to relinquishing one of us from navigation duties at the critical time.
Another fun aspect of this sailing lifestyle is all the interesting people we’ve met on our way down – quick friendships seem to develop from just the slightest excuse. “First Romance” sailing faster and overtaking “Moorea” seemed a great reason to invite its interesting single handed sailor, Graham, aboard for drinks at the shared isolated anchorage in the Narrows – which led to many more shared evenings and drinks when we spent a few days together in Gladstone Marina. Meeting another couple came from hearing each other logging in with the coastguard on the radio over the course of a couple of days, together with a quick sharing of information via radio and soon led to us seeking each other out when we landed at various marinas around the same time – and more shared times aboard. In other cases a quick hello as we’ve motored past someone’s yacht has been enough to land us aboard sharing social times and helpful information.
And now this part of our journey is nearing its conclusion – the trip down from Cairns has only whetted our appetite for more of the cruising lifestyle. We are now about 4 days sail away from Moreton Bay – with new adventures awaiting us – yet to be fully worked out.
On the road again
02 November 2011 | Mackay
Janice & Ken
Here we are sitting in Mackay Harbour having spent a fun couple of days catching up with Keith and Ann Dittmar–McCollim. We timed our run to avoid some stronger south-easterly winds and tomorrow, with more favourable winds predicted, we continue our journey south.
So much seems to have happened since we left Cairns. It was sad leaving the lovely people of St Margaret’s church… we had a great send off with so much kindness from the folks and Ken indulged himself on his final Sunday and got to “play the drum” with the Islander musicians (he’d wanted to get his hands on that drum for ages!) First Romance now sports two garlands adorning the clock and barometer given to us by the “Flower girls”.
The Captain of the ship reckons he is at last learning to be more patient with waiting for the right conditions - having had a “challenging” sail from Magnetic Island south to Bowen (and having ignored the opinion of the Admiral that we should wait one more day for sea and winds to abate).
After being holed up for a week waiting for strong south-easterlies to subside Ken became stir crazy and decided to go for it as soon as a change arrived. Unfortunately the crew failed to mutiny…. which they should have. The problem was that it takes time for the seas to settle - which they hadn’t! With a 100 nautical mile (180 km) trip ahead of us we expected it to take about 20-24 hours. Instead we took 34 hours and covered 126 nm (due to tacking) with 2/3rd of the trip spent bashing into the seas head on – no fun on a dark cloudy night without moon light and waves we couldn’t see hitting the yacht head on.
To add to the angst, the halyard holding up the jib (headsail) gave way – mercifully during daylight hours. This meant fully lowering the sail, attaching an alternative halyard and then – hardest of all – re-hoisting the sail single handed (feeding it onto the furler) while Janice had to stay on the helm as we still have no workable self-steering for heavy weather. The sail wouldn’t feed properly onto the furler and took numerous trips from the winch on the mast to the furler at the bow, feed a bit more, back to the winch to raise it another 6 inches, back to the furler….. meanwhile waves were coming over the bow. It was about this time that a thought bubble was seen floating over Ken’s head reading “This is a young man’s game!” We both felt like saying ‘stop the boat I want to get off” but you realise…just keep going and eventually you’ll get there.
Next morning it was soooo.. reviving to see the sun come up over the sea, with the wind direction improving a little and the sea flattening - it was simply lovely motor-sailing past Abbot Point with the autopilot going. This facility is a terminal for loading large ships that reaches well out to sea. The experience on the new day was so different to the previous 24 hours. As we were nearing our destination Janice was talking on the phone to a highly experienced sailing friend and saying we felt as though we’d just completed “Bashing into the Wind 101” – she said “Yes – and the first thing you learn is DON’T DO IT”. When eventually we motored into Edgecumbe Bay in the late afternoon to anchor behind beautiful Stone Island lying just off Bowen Harbour, and with the sun setting over this lovely peaceful spot, we drank to that….and agreed – yep, don’t do it! Just as well the anchor didn’t drag that night because we would never have heard it.
The sailing since that long haul has been much more fun. We’ve had some delightful shorter day sails – across Edgecumbe Bay to Gloucester Passage, next day down to Airlie Beach (sadly motoring all the way with light unfavourable winds). We then spent a few days in the Whitsundays – snorkelling off Border Island…. but sadly the reef there has been battered by a cyclone since last we snorkelled off the island about 10 years ago.
Our plans are to keep moving south so that we are back in Moreton Bay by December. But before we get there we will be trying to stop at anchorages we missed on the way up, at least as far as we can.
Where did the time go?
25 September 2011 | Cairns
Where did that 3 months go! Here we are nearing the end of Ken’s time filling in at St Margaret’s Anglican church as their locum priest – and now we have only 1 week to go before he finishes and the hard work starts to prepare for leaving.
Ken’s really enjoyed his time at St Margaret’s and we’ve got to know some lovely people and got to enjoy some wonderful music by the Islander community.
In the meantime I went down to Brisbane for a couple of weeks and had a great time with Mum and Dad. I snuck in and out again and didn’t really catch up with friends – but between some work I had to do, and wanting to focus on my time with my parents the time disappeared.
We will certainly be able to say that Cairns has been an enlarging experience! The only member of the crew that hasn’t put on weight here is Cedric – and I think he just wasn’t trying. It has nothing to do with our self discipline - I actually blame our sense of responsibility for supporting the local economy and myriad gelato shops – with one even conveniently located right next to the marina amenities block. “I might slip to the toilet” has taken on a whole new meaning. And then there is the 2 for 1 happy hour drink deals at the bar just near the top of the ramp – what’s a person meant to do!
We’ve had a good chance to have a look around Cairns and the surrounding areas whilst here. And while Ken worked I managed to get a bit of work sewing doing some running repairs and also making a vinyl bimini (boat awning) for someone on a nearby boat – as well as doing a bit of legal work for the old firm, all of which has been low key and just adds to the sailing kitty.
But fun time in Cairns is nearly over – in a week’s time we pull the boat out of the water, sand the anti-foul off, scrape and prod looking for blisters in the fibreglass, fix ‘em if there’s any biggies and then put on another 3 coats of anti-foul. The name is not correct though. Its not anti-foul – its foul (the job that is). Hopefully the rigger will come as promised (but not yet fulfilled) and carry out some necessary work on the rigging.
Ken’s put in a chart plotter which will be an extra safety tool and should relieve anxiety when sailing in poor visibility. We had a few tricky times when coming up here, a couple sailing at night, and another when we were sailing close alongside an island and had a total white out because of extremely heavy rain and couldn’t even see the island we were beside for quite a while. So seeing where we are on a chart will be a nice backup.
We also bought ourselves the littlest inflatable tender we could find in the hope it will be able to stay inflated on the front of the boat whilst sailing. Having to inflate our tender before getting off the boat every time we stopped for the night was the bane of our lives… so more often than not – unless we were spending a bit of time there - we didn’t, and just stayed on the boat. We are told it will be hopeless to steer (flat bottom) but we should manage boat to shore and anyway it might be good for a laugh.
We’ve come to realise this trip could never be anything more than a shakedown for us so we are planning to return south and then work out what is next. On the trip up we discovered a range of issues with the boat, some of them easily fixable (and buying the chart plotter and smaller tender should sort some of the difficulties), but other issues are not so fixable without changing the boat. On top of that we, and Ken in particular, were going stir crazy with huge licks of time trapped on the boat (by bad weather and poor setup).
The trip south should tell us whether we want to keep going with sailing full-time or whether other things come into focus, such as a pull back to ministry. But whatever, I suspect a period of time in the UK is likely next year.
The joy of this lifestyle at the moment is the freedom and options available to us – as for now we are looking forward to getting back out there sailing again.
The hazards of pausing...
14 July 2011 | Cairns
I knew right from the outset that sitting still was dangerous. And sure enough, within an instant (well…days) Ken had wheedled himself an invite to a clergy conference going on up here – and the very next day he had himself a locum position for 3 months. He has already been there a couple of weeks and seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself. At the moment he is only working part time and I’m not sure if that will continue!
Handily the parish is within a bike ride of the marina, so whilst Ken has a car that comes with the job, I am able to get there with only a little perspiration (except when I run late…then it is a LOT of sweating as I peddle my little heart out). Also on the bright side it keeps Ken out of mischief, helps pay the bills and gives us a car which will enable us to have a bit of a look around.
In the meantime I’m working out what exciting things I want to do to keep me occupied – apart from cooking too much fattening food. So the idea of learning to dive appeals (which Ken will be extremely jealous about), maybe the long planned barista course (although Ken assures me that women of my vintage will not be wanted in coffee shops when the place is full of gorgeous young backpackers).
But realistically, it will give us a chance to work out our next move…. SUCH luxury to have options.
Cairns - where to from here?
26 June 2011
Here we sit at Cairns, far north Queensland - the country of crocodiles, cyclones and the fabulous Great Barrier Reef. But up to now all we have seen is lots of tourists (although we did hear the distinctive bark of the crocodiles whilst at Mourilyan Harbour). At the moment we are in the marina in the centre of Cairns and it would take us months to visit every restaurant nearby, being the centre of the tourist area. Considering that as I write it is the winter solstice and the temperature in the yacht is 15 degrees (Celsius) at 7 am, it is very comfortable.
We had two quite lovely sails, the first from Mourilyan Harbour to Fitzroy Island and then from Fitzroy to Cairns. The winds were strong enough to give us a great sail without being too strong (much of the way the winds have been so fluky or light that we've needed the engine for at least part of the way).
Unlike most arrivals at port, coming into the Marlin Marina at the Port of Cairns was a bit "exciting". (You like the euphemism?) On the final approach to Trinity Inlet (the river into Cairns) we found the arrangement of beacons confusing, mistaking a lead light for a red channel marker - this ought to be easy stuff. We were heading for a sandbank, until we saw a very large motor boat taking a different course in the channel, but a quick look through the binoculars and rechecking the charts we realised our mistake in plenty of time, with a sigh or relief. (It seems other sailors had a similar experience when they first came into Cairns.) Once that trauma was sorted out we confidently headed for the marina, dropped the sails, started the engine and motored for the entrance. It was lovely to see some fellow yachties we had previously met up with waving madly as we approached - they happened to be standing on the sea wall and watched us come in.
We radioed the marina who gave us our berth details so that we could be well prepared to come alongside - berth number C12 bow in, port hand tie-up, done it many times, piece of cake! We like to go in bow first because First Romance does not behave herself at all well in reverse (technically referred to as "a dog going backwards". The wind was a bit blowy but nothing too difficult. As we moved slowly down C row looking for the port hand berth, Janice (on the helm) suddenly saw we were already alongside the berth but it was a starboard hand tie-up! She said, with some urgency and obvious anxiety, "It's the wrong side, they told us the wrong side, move the ropes and fenders quick!!!" While I was frantically changing ropes and fenders from one side of the yacht to the other, Janice put First Romance into reverse rather than turn in the very narrow channel. Between the lottery of reverse and the wind catching the almost stationary yacht, First Romance starts to drift into the berthed boats that are only a metre away down wind. I see this only when things are clearly out of control, with a look of grave concern on Janice's face. In my calmest and most tender, quiet, loving voice I ask my panic stricken wife, "WHAT THE B....Y HELL IS HAPPENING!!" As usual, when things go wrong there is always an audience to enjoy the event. I am jammed with my legs pushing us off a boat, Janice is trying to get control with the engine in reverse (bad idea) and First Romance has decided to go the wrong way, with some help from the wind. Boat owners who hear us CALMLY SHARING OUR CONCERN, then see our dilemma come running to assist and protect their now threatened vessels. By then we were virtually on top of the other boats - so going forward or in reverse was much the same - only difference being which particular vessel we were about to take out at that given moment. At last, and after much pushing by myself and the help of two others pushing us away from a collision with boats, Janice edges us away from the boats and we have a little room to manoeuvre. She gladly allows me to take the helm, and I still do not know how we turned First Romance in the narrow space between the rows of boats and yachts, I suspect it had something to do with prayer! But as quickly as our difficulties started, ropes were on the right side and we were moving easily into the berth with what seemed like no difficulties at all, "Thank you God!" No damage was done to our yacht or to any other vessel. However, we cannot say the same for our egos. It was what can best be called an impressive entry into Cairns, our arrival was I suspected noted by many. Recalling the event to our friends, who missed the whole thing, elicited a knowing smile and their own nightmare story - just a typical boating experience.
Now that we have settled in we will be spending some time in Cairns to plan what to do next. With the increasing activities of pirates in the northern Indian Ocean we, like most others intending to head for the Red Sea, are re-thinking our longer term plans. The attacks in 2005 were happening up to 265 nautical miles off the coast, but by this year the range has increased to 1300 nautical miles and covering a large portion of the Indian Ocean. It also seems that the pirates are becoming more vicious to those captured, with 4 cruisers murdered earlier this year - and another cruising family of 7 since taken, with threats made to kill them if there is a rescue attempt.
Having now spoken to a number of circumnavigators from Europe and the USA, many are heading for Thailand and intend to wait and see what happens. It seems that some are getting their vessels shipped through the area, at some considerable expense. Others are intending to sell their boat in Asia and purchase another in Europe. The final option is to sail around South Africa and then, because of prevailing currents and winds, across the South Atlantic and then once again the North Atlantic. Whichever strategy a sailor chooses on arrival in the European Union there is a possibility of having to pay Value Added Tax (VAT) on your vessel. If you intend to stay in Europe for any length of time VAT can become quite a problem.
So we sit and consider - as John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you are planning it!" But it is all fun and we are so lucky to have options to think about sitting in so nice a location.
Magnetic Island & Townsville
06 June 2011
Here we are, sitting at Townsville, having had a relatively lazy day – SO nice. We arrived a few days ago and have been running around madly.
We needed to get to a chandlery to buy a new tiller monitor (so our Fleming self steering will work with our downwind sailing). It was out of town so we hiked, then headed for a chart place another few kilometres away that was closed, then back into town to visit museums. All in all we figure we walked about 20 kms that day, then the next day was busy too, what with going to church (and catching up with a priest friend who just happened to be taking the service that day – Ian & Jill McAllister for those who know), washing, getting more supplies (and having to haul them by hand back to the boat). Shhh - don’t tell him I said it but Ken looked like a pack horse!
After Bowen we did a 24 hour sail up to Magnetic Island where we discovered the beautiful Horseshoe Bay. It was great – no marina fees, just good access to the fish & chip shop (luxury), pub, ice cream shop (double yum for those with no freezer) and beachfront shower (albeit cold). It was AWFUL because the anchor just seemed to be stuck and we couldn’t get away. We did get to have a really good look at Magnetic Island…. and again did some serious walking (and my muscles still haven’t recovered) before hopping across to Townsville.
Tomorrow we head off for a longish sail up to Orpheus Island which is part of the Palm group (Palm Island being a well known Aboriginal settlement). Apparently Palm Island is quite beautiful, but sadly the racial issues and crime rate means it is not recommended. Ken has been shocked by the really sad state of some of the Aboriginals here in Townsville – I’ve seen it before in Alice Springs and it is shocking to see – decimated people. Of course that is the minority, with many more Aboriginal people just getting on with their lives.
All in all the difficulty of the regional areas is becoming apparent to us. Townsville seems to be doing it tough, Magnetic Island (supposedly a tourist mecca) is really running down, and seems to be dying.frjfdjfdjkdagvvv 006E (Cedric has been helping).
So, early night for us with a long sail tomorrow (because our planned stopover spot is in a military area – and being used by them for a few days).