Louisaides Part Two
02 November 2013 | Townsville
Hot & Humid
Part Two of the Louisiades story.
We did get the world’s smallest bunch of bananas which were ripe; of course the green bananas from the previous week which we doubted would ever ripen did so all at once, so Susie made banana and chocolate cake which has yet to be sampled.
In calm conditions at Hati Lawi, I went up the mast to straighten out the tell tails on the Windex, somehow they had become more swept back. Whilst up, I also gave the rig a bit of a check.
Dean and I decided to go for a snorkel around the bommies near where we were anchored, it was so good we went to the coral island where there was a 30 metre drop off and an amazing collection of fish. The new underwater camera had its first dip, but I need more practice!
We headed north to Grass also known as Wanim Island where we anchored and went ashore. The village kids showed us up the hill to their school. Most of the village was mostly deserted as being Saturday many had gone over to Hobruk School to play or watch soccer. Wanim Island is where there is a trade store, the first we have seen but being Saturday it was closed, however we peered in through the windows at the meagre stock of hooks, sinkers, some fishing line, Maggi stock, tins of fish, cooking oil etc.
We continued on to Hobuk School where we met Hans on the yacht “Seagoon”. He has been visiting the Louisiades for the last 8 years or so. It was not the best of anchorages due to the tidal flow between the islands, therefore the following day we sailed 16 miles to Robinson’s Anchorage on Kuwanak Island near Gigila Island. Our first night was interrupted by gusty winds and many brief passing showers, but the anchorage was well protected and had a pretty vista. We decided to stay another night. Several canoes came visiting, we traded a pair of old shorts for a bunch of large bananas with Noah, and 2 oranges and 6 limes for 1kg rice, an exercise book and a biro with Doris. Susie had the sewing machine out and with some of Dean’s UV thread re-sewed the zippers on the quarter seat cushions. Dean made pizzas for lunch which was a drawn out affair. Before leaving Robinsons Anchorage we managed to trade for a few small crayfish. We are very aware to ensure the trades fair to all parties, remembering that tails sell in Misima or Alotau for 20 kina ($15) p/kg.
Our next stop, Hoba Bay on Pana Numura Island, is where we caught up with Ashley and Brenda on “Ashymakaihken”. It is a month since we had last seen them in Townsville, although we had been in touch almost every day by Ham radio. In the bay anchored with them was another yacht flying a French Flag, then later in the afternoon another sailed into the bay, this time a catamaran also flying a French flag. Five yachts together in one bay, our own little Rally! Needless to say sun downers on “Water Music”, meant we all got together to swap stories.
Dean had been very careful with his fuel and had not had to motor sail into the wind from Samarai as we had done, he offered to let me have 40 litres, I am not sure if it will be enough, but we may be able to get more from Raymond the businessman at Wanim Island.
Next day we sailed to the Blue Lagoon which is supposed to be very pretty but stupidly we had timed our our arrival at just after 8 am which meant the sun was in our eyes and entering the lagoon too hard. We sailed on to another anchorage nearby at Gilia Island which had been recommended to us.
We had hardly finished anchoring and were approached by a canoe with a man who does carvings with a badly cut finger, it probably needed stitches. Susie did her best for him, dressing it and giving him some Panadol for pain and strict instructions to keep it dry for two days. She also suggested he visit the Health Outpost on Bagaman Island should it become more painful. Shortly after another canoe visited arriving with a couple of good sized crayfish so it was crays, champagne and potato salad as a farewell lunch for Dean who was heading back to Australia.
At 2 pm we sadly watched Dean depart in the opposite direction, we tracked him for a while on AIS as he headed SW towards Duchateau Pass. Hopefully his Dad will keep us updated with his progress.
We motor sailed back to Pana Numura and were the only boat in the anchorage at Hoba Bay overnight. The anchorage at Hoba Bay is amongst coral and despite moving we always managed to get coral near our chain and much grumbling at night. With a freshening SE wind forecast for the next several days we decided to leave early and return to Robinson’s Anchorage where the anchor does not grumble over coral and at least a quiet night sleep is assured.
En route to Robinson’s we caught a 6.5 kg Spanish mackerel, which we took to the village as soon as we arrived. Only three families live there, Rocky and Clim were the two men we met, others were our fishing or working in the gardens. They appreciated the gift.
We stayed at Robinson’s for several nights mainly as we had worked out that by staying longer in an anchorage the locals tend to get to know what trades we were likely to make and hence their visiting reduces considerably, and we were enjoying the peace and solitude. While we were at Robinson’s the generator overheated and shut down. I suspected the impellor so waited until the relative cool of the next morning to start the job. NB: Night time temperatures of 28 degrees with RH of 85% is normal.
“Ashymakaihken” arrived the following morning and kindly, Ashley gave me some help to replace and repair the offending impellor . The impellor was shredded, I fished around with my finger in the end of the heat exchanger and found several bits, eventually it all had to be stripped down, when I re-started the generator the hose clamp slipped and sea water was pumped into the coolant chamber and overflowed into the bilge, the automatic bilge switch failed to work but the high water alarm went off, oh bother! After pumping a lot of pink coloured water out of the bilge Ashley helped me re-assemble the heat exchanger a different way with success. A couple of days later when everything was working properly, I drained the salt water from the coolant chamber and re-filled it with 50/50 glycol mixture. That is an annual service job done. Robinson’s was a good anchorage for us as we enjoyed snorkelling the reef here, which had some nice hard and soft corals, including a nice little piece of red coral and very pretty fish.
We were happy to hear from Dean via internet of his safe arrive back in Townsville.
Some of the Louisiades Rally boats arrived which caused the cost of living to go sky high, so at the first opportunity we left and headed for a creek on the north coast of Pana Wina. This was not our favourite spot, dirty water from rain run off made finding the coral difficult and at night the mozzies were ferocious. This was the first time we had been bothered by mozzies as we had avoided mangroves previously. We met a very nice man called Pascale, from the village around the corner. He was really interesting to chat to while Susie was making bread, and we chatted about all sorts of things, religion to politics, the PNG economy and the Louisiades, cultural stuff etc.
Once the bread went into the oven we motored then once the wind picked up, sailed through the channel beside the southern end Pana Wina to get to Hessessai Bay on Pana Tinani. We made the bay just as rain clouds blanketed the sun causing wind squalls. Visibility through the reef was poor and as our path appeared to be obstructed by an unbroken reef we aborted and went to the protected bay at Grass or Wanim Island.
It was mid-afternoon on Thursday by the time we arrived at Wanim Island but we went ashore to watch the women making Baggy which is a reddish coloured seashell ground, drilled and threaded to make necklaces. Baggy was traditionally used for money and culturally remains important in ceremonies, even today is still offered as part of the bride price. We gave them some dental drill bits which we had scrounged in Townsville; they were unsure whether they could be used.
The process of making Baggy is by breaking up the shell (which is similar to small oysters) into small pieces. The shell pieces are ground on carborundum stone to remove the inside and outside surfaces leaving the coloured inner layer. The red layer is the highly sort after layer, followed by orange, black and then white. Once the coloured shell pieces are ground they use pincer pliers make the pieces of a semi even and round wafer discs, then they drill a hole into the centre of each piece. How they drill the hole is a very interesting process, as they use a sharp ended triangulated drill bit attached to a piece of straight banana wood which has a flange above the drill and attached to the top end the ends of cord with a handle in the middle. By twisting the cord around the shaft the whole becomes like an old fashioned spinning top to drill the hole through the shell – amazing process. The pieces are now ready for threading. Threading each piece sometimes with a pattern into 12-14inch lengths and sometimes longer. Once threaded, the pieces are tightly packed together on the string which is placed on a board which is tightly secured by nails along the length of the board with a piece of thin tubing at each end. More grinding takes place up and down the length while the other hand rolls the necklace. Once the necklace is even, decorations at either end and sometimes the middle are added to complete the necklace. This hole process is time consuming but must be worth doing judging by the Baggi makers appearances, as they appear relatively well off.
It was school holidays while we were in the islands and the local children were happy to have a new distraction to amuse them. The usual stream of canoes arrived, the kids got sweets and we got an assortment of tomatoes and pawpaw for soap and fishing line. While ashore we enquired about being able to get diesel from the trade store, the owner was away so nothing was very clear, come back tomorrow they said when the boat comes in. The following day I went ashore; the result was the same however they seemed positive that if we came in again on Sunday we might have some luck. I did the fuel sums and probably had enough to get back to Townsville allowing for 24 hours motor use, not ideal, so we tried again asking for a full drum which we could share with “Ashymakaihken” but it appeared that use containers was the better way. As I only had one container and Ashley had 3, Raymond the businessman (store owner) offered the use of 2 of his. We did the deal and said we would be back on Friday to collect. In the meantime the tropical convergence zone had slipped south and provided a couple of days of rain and showers, great for the island gardens and Brenda’s laundry!
Weekends seem to start on Thursday pm and finish on Monday morning, soccer, church and visiting relatives are the main activities. The Wanim store has a generator so blasts out music while the locals played soccer or netball. We gave them a selection of movies, they wanted thrillers and anything soccer. We did the best we could and Ashley found some old DVD’s which they were very happy to get. I took lots of photos inside the store “to show other yachties all the good things they could buy when they get to Wanim” Raymond and his wife Leonnie were happy to have someone take an interest in their business, he also buys shark fins and beche de mere from the locals.
On 7 Oct, we motored the 3 miles to Hessessai Bay, catching a 6 kg barracuda just as we were approaching the reefs around the island. The smell of the barracuda was really off putting and as soon as we had anchored we took it ashore and found assistant priest Father Allenso, and gave it to him. We could hear the sound of baggy shell being ground and met Eunice who showed Ashley how the pieces are ground and drilled and roughly trimmed into approx. 5 mm diameter discs.
Just before sunset Raymond showed up in his banana boat, fibreglass dinghy approx.. 8mts long powered by a 40hp Yamaha. He stayed for a couple of beers, liking our Phillipino brewed San Miguel beer which we had bought from the bond store in Townsville. He liked it so much he asked for 6 to swap with the White label beers (South Pacific Export brewed in Pt Moresby) he sells from his store on Wanim. He sells it at Kina 5.40 each which is equivalent to AU$75 a case. Raymond said he would deliver our diesel to Hessassai the following morning.
Next morning we were woken up at first light (about 05.45) by the sound of 30 men doing their soccer fitness training on the sand spit between the two islands. Their coach, Ryall was not impressed with their lack of physical fitness during their last match.
Island time; we spent all day waiting for Raymond who was a no show. That’s life! Instead, the following morning we motored to Wanim to get diesel and beers (collecting Ashley’s as well) then on to Hata Lawi Harbour.
9 Oct Hessessai to Wanim
At Hata Lawi we met a man Francis. We bought (using Kina) a couple of Cray fish, but letting him know that we would like some more but this time we would prefer to use our trade items. The next morning Francis and David arrived with 15 crays, we took seven, Ashley and Brenda took eight. Susie spent a long time cleaning and cooking and freezing crays.
Francis also makes Baggi and said he would show Ashley and Brenda how it was finished off as we had already seen how the individual pieces were prepared and drilled. The following day Francis appeared with his wife, Vikki and two young children and the tools required for completing the process of making Baggi. We spent several hours on board “Ashymakaihken” while he showed us how the string of Baggi is stretched out and ground smooth with carborundum stones of different grades to get a uniform small bead size. There is no doubt that Francis makes excellent Baggi.
On a nice sunny clear day we dinghied to the nearby islet and burnt our accumulated rubbish before going snorkelling. A few of the local teenagers showed up in a sailing canoe which they sailed with great skill and confidence, they also stole Ashley’s plastic milk bottle bailer which is annoying, as they could have had it if they had asked.
In unusual NE winds we sailed to Pana Wina, but the anchorage had too many bommies for our comfort and we ended up by heading back at Robininson’s Anchorage on Kawanuk, where we spent another night or two.
From Robininson’s Anchorage we sailed onto Hoba Bay on Pana Numara, but we did detour to have a look at the anchorage at Pana Krusima Island en route, but decided the ground swell and tidal currents including the presence of numerous bommies would not make pleasant quiet anchorage. Ashley and Brenda stopped overnight and had a disturbed night.
For once we managed to place our anchor in a sandy spot in Hoba Bay remained for a couple of quiet nights. We had not originally planned to stay more than 1 night but shortly after our arrival here we were asked by Samuel to help him. He had a nasty very recent machete injury to this left thumb and index finger. This was an ugly wound, dirty, a chunk of skin taken from the thumb, and a really deep gash across the knuckle of the index finger. Susie cleaned it all up, dressed the wounds with Bactoban ointment. Because the wounds were dirty, she was concerned about infection developing. We decided to stay a couple of nights so that she could redress the wound two days later. More Panadol given, more instruction about keeping the wound dry. Sure enough, Samuel returned before 8am two days later. The wounds looked great and she redressed them again with Bactoban ointment, with instructions to keep dry for a further two days and to attend the Health Outpost at Bagaman Island if the wounds sore. We only had one remaining course of antibiotics and as these were probably not effectual in this case, we did not offer them, just in case we needed them en route back to Australia.
By now we were looking for a weather window for our trip back to Australia, so we were looking for a reasonable anchorage as a take-off point. We visited Bagaman Island via the anchorage at Gilia which was untenable with 30 knot bullets coming off the 400 metre high island. The first bay at Bagaman opposite Oissi village looked okay, anchoring in 16mts.
The locals were quick to approach with requests and offers to trade. We met “Wyaki” the wood carver who Susie had patched up when we stopped near Gilia Island three weeks previously. His badly cut finger was completely healed, which was great. We asked him to make us a wooden bowl and showed him the approximate size and shape, his brother made one for us as well. Wyaki and his brother Steven, were amongst the few nice people we met at this island, they agreed on a deal or trade and left it alone unlike most of the others that just keep asking for more and more. We had been warned the people here were greedy – they are!
Bagaman Island is supposedly the island of wood carvers but they are nowhere near as good as the Solomon Islanders of Morovo Lagoon but the best in the Louisiades. They also try selling other woods as Ebony and it is really buyer beware.
We took all the remaining medical gifts to the First Aid Station and all the remaining stationary, Soccer and Netballs to the Elementary School. Iso the teacher was very grateful. They were due to hold the last round of the local Soccer tournament on Saturday and Susie was asked to bake cakes which they could sell as fund raisers. Susie duly baked cup-cakes, iced and decorated with hundreds and thousands. Later that morning we heard from a villager the soccer was cancelled. Nobody had bothered to let us know, we all ate the cakes.
I believe we have made beggars out of them. Common courtesy as in “Please” and “Thank you” are words lost to them. They expect to be given whatever they want and did not have the courtesy to let us know. By now we are all over the “Louisiades Experience” and are looking for a weather window to go back to Oz. One woman (Estelle) complained that the free clothing she had been given for a piddling amount of fruit was the wrong size, she went on to complain about some baggy that Susie said she wanted to trade, not buy and came to us asking for cash. Another man had an AU$50 note which he wanted to exchange for Kina, the rate he wanted was 25% better for him than bank rate I Australia so “no deal”. On the bright side, a 14 year old girl (Julie) came to us wanting sugar for which she brought 5 kina, which is a fair deal, she got the sugar and a handful of sweets and balloons. Several people have asked for sponsorship for church or school or soccer. Then Estelle returned wanting us to get people in Australia to send money to them. I suggested that she should get the money from her own very wealthy and corrupt government. She may not return to our boat! They seem to be able to see a sign on our boat that says “Gift Shop”. The pleasure of giving has been worn out.
Ashley had offered to try to fix the leaks in a fibre glass dinghy that Moses had acquired, so the dinghy was left on the beach near where we anchored and Ashley and I did some small repairs with glass and resin. Moses came and watched and said nothing much, next day he returned and was told it was ok to go, it went. The following day Moses came to our boat and got an earful from Susie for not telling us the soccer was cancelled and not even thanking us for repairing his dinghy. He stayed away for the next 24 hours but came and thanked us when he heard we were leaving.
We waited for what appeared to be a good weather window to make the dash to Australia. All the available information from Grib files based on the US meteorological models and the daily 4 day Mean Sea Level Pressure Prognosis issued by BOM together with the advice of Kiwi David, a retired meteorologist. The all looked good for Wednesday 23 October departure.
We had a couple of scary moments, the first night the whole GPS, Autopilot and Chartplotter threw a wobbly. After 3 reboots we were back on track and knew where we were. This happened again a couple of days later and our back up navigation systems were initiated. Separate charts and GPS running on my laptop with a continuous track made us feel better, especially as the second failure occurred just when we were within 10 miles of Dart Reef on one side and McDermott Bank on the other. Our plan to enter Australia via the Magnetic Passage worked well. However we did motor sail for a couple of hours as the wind became very light and on the nose whilst in Magnetic Passage. But once through we were able to ease the sails and sailed almost all the way across the Paddock to Magnetic Island where we anchored at 8:15 pm on Saturday 26 October.
We had hopes for easterly winds to give us a really easy passage, and we ended up with South Easterly wind and swell for most of our 586 mile trip. From our anchorage at Bagaman Island, it took 3 hours to clear the edge of the reef and get into deep water. By noon the wind freshened and we were doing 8 knots. Before sunset we reefed down the sails and steadied our speed to a more comfortable 6.5 – 7.5 knots. The wind strengths peaked at 24 knots but settled down to just below 15- 20 knots for the remainder of the trip. Our boat speed was determined by sleep demands for comfort, reefing down during the night. Most of the time the swell was mostly just forward of the mast which meant we were constantly heel over with little bumping or crashing over waves, and the wind was a close reach. Our average distance made good was 160 miles a day with an hourly average of 6.88 knots.
The following day, Sunday, we washed the boat with salt water to try and remove some of the salt crystal build up. Susie cleaned up below, after which we were able to relax. On Monday we had booked Customs for 10 am and they brought the people from AQIS. Customs were great with no issues about our lack of exit stamps or clearance papers from PNG. AQIS did their jobs …… We had to hand over any fruit and veg as expected. What annoyed me more was the loss of the cashews and macadamia nuts bought from Woollies but vacuum packed by us so no labelling!!! They also took seven frozen meals which Susie had pre-cooked in Australia, then froze and vacuum packed. AQIS also charged $330 for their services and whilst I was annoyed, I was thankful that they did not force us to undergo any bug treatment as they appeared hell bent in finding critters on board, even commenting how lucky we were not to have cockroaches.
Louisaides Part One
02 November 2013 | Townsville
Hot & Humid
This is the first half of the Louisiades story and was sent to some via email, the second half is in Blog 24.
The last Blog was posted from Townsville on 19 August and so this Blog will cover our trip to the Louisiades where we have no internet so this will probably be sent when we get back to Aus.
The four and seven day forecasts looked good for our planned departure on 26 August, once again we had the benefit of a car on loan from Rohan & Julie, which made our last minute shopping much easier. Every time we made a list went to the shops filled in the gaps and spaces we found more places to put things. A last minute rush over to Mitre 10 to buy 8 mm dowel to make a stackable storage system for the vegies and spuds which had not been needed for past shorter journeys.
I had ordered some duty free liquor from the Bond Store which was loaded on Friday 23rd August. Customs came and put a seal on each of the doors to the aft loo where it was all stored. On the 26th, Customs came at 9 am and did the Ship Clearance collecting our passenger cards etc. They did not seem too fussed about checking whether we had drunk all the booze!
The Passage 26 August to 30 August 2013
At 10am we headed out towards Palm Island where we spent our last night before heading off. Hopefully all the bank stuff and email subscriptions etc. that we deal with daily will run on autopilot as this was the last chance to use phones or the internet.
We were joined for the trip by Dean on the yacht “Bella Amalfi”, which he sails single handed, usually up and down the East Coast. He decided to join our expedition and managed to get his Australian Rego, PNG Visa, antifouling and radar all done and installed in 4 weeks – mad rush! We shared planned routes and said we would try to stay close if possible. It didn’t work, it never does. I don’t know why we tried! He also has AIS but this only provided about a 12 mile range from yacht to yacht probably aggravated by the angle of heel and the bouncy conditions. The VHF radio was not much better and as Dino did not have HF radio, he was soon out of range for direct communications however all was not lost…
Dino had bought a satellite phone in Townsville, we had also activated our SatPhone however at $20 for 1 minute we were not going to call him but he could text his father for free and we could email his father using the Winlink system on our HF radio. The challenge was finding land based stations with a strong and clear signal so we could get our messages sent and for us to receive weather GRIB files. We became a lot more competent with these systems as time went by.
Within hours of clearing the reef via Palm Passage, “Bella Amalfi” sailed a more windward course. We settled for 60% off the bow with fast speeds. By the end of the first day the wind was more from the East than we had hoped and at 20 knots gusting 24, with easterly swell approx. 2.5mts, it became hard to continue to hold our planned course. On day two, after a night of crashing and bashing we decided to change course by 25 degrees and head for the Custom’s Port at Samarai.
The changed angle gave a bit more boat speed although we continued with reefs in both sails. Actually, we were continually increasing and decreasing sail as conditions changed, particularly during the small squalls which were occurring. Wind speeds were from about 17 – 25 knots, with a gradual change from just south of east to a steady ESE, whilst swells remained a moderate 2.5-3mts. from the east.
During the second day we discovered that there was sea water ingress into the forward cabin. All the bedding, including mattress, pillows and cushions were wet with salt water. The forward hatch had not been locked down properly; the canvas cover which goes over the hatch has a string in the edge seam which appears to have got caught between the frame and seal. A very unfortunate scenario to say the least!
The third day was the worst for wind strength blowing steady at 20-24knots. The direction had now settled to SE (where it should have been all along) and the swell increased to 3.5-4mts. The speed was great and the shorter distance meant there was a strong possibility of reducing our number of nights at sea or arriving too late and having to drift around overnight – ugh!
During a lumpy bit around 6:00 am Susie took a fall which resulted in her impaling the palm of her left hand on a cabin hook normally used to hang our backpack, the cut is nasty and will need careful attention and antibiotics. She also managed to slow her fall by doing a face plant on the shelf, nose cut, not broken and an imprint of her glasses on her eyebrow.
At 3:30 pm we crossed the edge of the reef and entered PNG. Passing into the wind shadow behind the first island, we were able to shake out the reefs in the sails and go as fast as possible to get to an anchorage before nightfall. The first place, Doini Island looked rough, we arrived 10 minutes too late at the next anchorage of Rogeia Pata Bay, it was too dark to be able to judge the distance off the shore even with radar so we went the extra 2 miles to Samarai which has at least two navigation lights. We anchored at 8:30 pm in about 12 metres on a rocky bottom with dubious holding after three days and twelve hours, having sailed 558 miles, with an average speed of 6.6 knots.
Milne Bay Province 31 August to 4 September
Assuming no Customs or Officials would see us on Saturday morning, we motored the two miles to a place known by yachties as the Pearl Farm (long gone now), which is a protected anchorage. The time for cleaning up the mess began in earnest. The generator, the washing machine and the water maker were started, and whilst all that was going, we began washing the boat with salt water to get rid of the crusty build-up of salt crystals which had built up over the time from the sea spray. Once done, the cockpit had a quick fresh water rinse, before rinsing the mattress, pillows and cushions, which we took up on deck to dry in the sun. We hope we managed to get rid of all the salt!!
The islands are very verdant, jungle covered hills and mountains. Lots of colour from different foliage, frangipanis in flower and other interesting trees with gorgeous fluffy pink flowers attached to branches and of course lots of coconut trees. The soil appears to be very fertile and this was further demonstrated when the kids listed off all the fruits and vegetables they grow in their gardens. The colour and the clarity of the water is vibrant against the verdant backdrop. We can see the bottom at depths of 15mts in beautiful blue water becoming more brilliant pale turquoise as the reefs shallow.
Several people came to see us in their dug- out canoes. One young lad trading about 3kgs of small bananas for some fishing hooks, he was very happy with his trade. Billy, who said he was the husband of the Head Teacher at the school here, came to invite us ashore to watch their Saturday afternoon sports.
We noticed a distinct male and female segregation, with the females selling produce, mostly Betel Nut, Coconuts and Sweet potato. There were also big pots with blackened bottoms containing what, we do not know. We should have asked but we were careful in our approach to some of these very shy and demur people.
A considerable number of dogs of indeterminate breed and in appalling condition wandered in and about the people. Their condition was particularly disconcerting to us both.
We watched several games of soccer played on a sloping rough grass field in front of the school. Teams from the school and nearby villages took as part of the selection process for further competition. They love soccer! We also watched the ladies playing netball on an even more sloping and rough field of beaten clay, the ages of the players on each team were quite varied, with older teenagers and grey haired women playing on one team. Their soccer and netball skills were certainly very good. Having a further wander around the edge of the sport field we came across children playing marbles, somewhat similar to the way we used to play but different. Then we were surprised to come across another group of men playing darts.
One of the school teachers, Mr Halif told us about the school. Over 140 kids attend this Christian mission school with 4 or 5 teachers. They call their school “Kwato” which was started by people from the London Missionary Society in the 1890’s, their village is called Sidu-du and is Christian and therefore liberal. Whilst the villages on either side, are Seventh Day Adventists (SDA). For once I am in favour of the more rigorous rules of the SDA, they are not allowed to chew betel nut and their diet is restricted but these SDA’s do eat fish. They are so much nicer to look at than their Christian neighbours whose mouths and teeth are stained red with broken and missing teeth from years of chewing betel nut together with continuous pinches of lime (crushed coral) and mustard seed. I believe the habit is carcinogenic but even the school teachers do it and believe the pure quality of the lime that they make from local coral in this region is safer than the stuff used further east. Have a look at some of the faces in the photos, it’s easy to tell whether they are SDA or not.
On Sunday morning we received many visits, for the most part these children were SDA’s as their holy day was Saturday. The ages of the children ranged from 1yr – 14yrs. Susie had long chats with them about their villages, school, their gardens (cultivated areas) and religion. They brought us bananas, coconuts and cowry shells, guava and passionfruit in exchange for sweeties and balloons. They even delightedly sang to us. The children have lovely handwriting, probably better than our own age equivalents. Dinosi, aged 12yrs wrote a short history of the Kwato Missionary School in our book. The children were all polite and respectful. All the younger ones sported snotty noses, with green gunk ensuing, but otherwise they all appeared healthy. After 4 or 5 hours of visitors, entertaining them with cordial, more sweets and balloons, we politely sent them away for us to have a rest.
We made the 2 mile trip to Samarai on Monday morning, 2 September. I dinghied ashore to find Felix Dosi, from Customs. A couple of local boys showed me to his house, fortunately he was there. I had to bring Felix out in our dinghy; at least he took off his black leather shoes. A guy called Roderick came for the ride. We filled in Passenger Arrival Cards and he did a Vessel Arrival form and needed a copy of our Aussie Rego - to keep, he also inspected our alcohol and boat stores. We were unable to get Practique as the Quarantine people are based at Misima and were advised to keep our yellow “Q” flag up.
Felix said that if he gave us clearance we would have to leave within 12 hours, no more advance clearance as has appeared to be in the past, this has since been confirmed by others. He says that is the Customs Act and that the Rally has different arrangements made via Port Moresby... They will be cleared in and out at Misima on the same day and if we wanted to get the same advance clearance we would have to deal with Guy Chester (Rally organiser - who we have already heard will not allow us to piggy back onto his rally unless we pay him $900, which we believe is a form of extortion) at Misima. If we do not do this we would have to return to Samarai to get clearance which we will be reluctant to do.
The town of Samarai is on a small island in the China Straights. Years ago it was an important town but is now run down and slowly disintegrating. There was one old trawler being repaired. The Chinese trade store was closed but in the process of being renovated, the rest of the buildings are storm damaged and falling apart. All the commercial activity has moved to Alotau which is on the mainland, 25 miles away to the north-west. We do not plan on going there as getting back will be hard. After our unsatisfactory meeting with Customs which included a warning not to discharge green waste overboard (perhaps he meant green was ok, plastic was not, or rather was it something to do with quarantine).
After the description of Samarai I gave to Susie, she decided it was not worth while going ashore, particularly as the holding is poor and with the prevailing windy conditions we decided to return the Pearl Farm anchorage. But we did not leave without a bonus! We pulled up the anchor complete with a truck tyre covered in coral. Somehow I had managed to drop the anchor right in the middle of the tyre and after 10 minutes messing about with ropes and a boat hook we managed to drop the tyre and retrieve the anchor.
As previously mentioned, due to the fresh breeze (SE 20-25), we came back to the Pearl Farm. We had looked at Possession Bay further northwards, it is protected but was a very deep anchorage. Interestingly there are two boat building sheds there, both had largish boats in them. On the hills behind there is evidence of some timber clearance. One local mentioned to us that one of the boats is due to be launched on the 25th September.
I've downloaded the 4 day MSLP at 14:30, and it looks like we won't be moving for a few days! Our next few destinations are all in an eastward direction and with winds on the nose at over 20 knots we will have to be patient and wait for the conditions to ease. At least we can catch up on reading and blogging and catching up on some rest, for the trip has physically taken its toll on us both.
Heading East 4th to 13th September
By 4th September we felt need of a change from the Pearl Farm so we set off towards Rogeia Pata Bay only 4 miles away, en route we passed Samarai Island where two yachts were anchored “Pandana” and “Muskat”, both had come to see Customs but Felix was apparently in Alotau.
We kept going in >18 knots, motor sailing making fair progress. With the strong wind from the ESE Rogeia it did not look inviting so rather than go backwards we pushed on towards Basilaki Island, by early afternoon the wind was 25 knots and reaching 30 at times, Susie was not impressed. Eventually we anchored, having made a 6 mile detour around some islands which in calmer weather we could have gone between but given the conditions, we felt it safer to stay well away from rocky bits. We anchored at 4 ish in Pitt Bay, some protection but a bit rolly. The locals pounced; the first girl asked for a soccer ball which the soccer coach asked her to get. I asked for crayfish, at this stage we have not seen the crayfish. Needless to say, we green horns gave her the soccer ball on the proviso they would bring us crayfish, which of course never eventuated.
I spent the morning of 5 September cutting, drilling and making brackets from stainless steel to repair the hinge on the toilet seat which came apart. These things look good at boat shows but under severe loading (95kg load & heeled over and bouncing off waves) they fail. Looks like little respite from the weather for a few more days but hopefully it is improving.
Never did see any crayfish and this act coloured the rest of our visit. We found Pitt Bay locals very wanting, asking for high end goods for little in return. As soon as we were able, we decided to move on despite the inclement weather.
6 September 2013
We had a choice of places to go next but all of course to windward. We choose the lagoon between Hummock and Haszard Island in the Engineer Group. According to our charts we could enter from either side but the sketch of the anchorage suggested the eastern side was better but a bit further. This sort of entrance is what is sometimes called “character building”, the wind and swell were from astern so the boat tended to twist and turn with the wave action, meanwhile greenish brown bits of coral reef can be seen not far away on the port side, the depth went from 40 metres to 5 metres over white sand and then we were in and having to start dodging “bombies”, weaving across the lagoon in crystal clear water which makes judging depths very hard. We anchored but the swell coming over the reef and the strong wind made it uncomfortable.
The first visitor was the local policeman, Henry John, he offered to guide us to a calmer place later in the day when the tide was rising so after a few hours rolling he came aboard and helped pilot our way to a more sheltered spot. For his kindness he received tee shirts and shorts for his two youngest children, Stephen and Moses, who are still living with him. The next visitor was the local pastor from the Uniting Church; his name was unusual as it is a native name, Sodi Guwai. Most of the people on Hummock have Old Testament names.
Over the next couple of days we had many visitors offering fruit and shells for trade. Susie handed out sweets and balloons to the young ones, most of the teenage kids are away on a nearby Watts Island where there is a school. We met the local magistrate, Romulus and his son Joe who had befriended previous visiting yachties on “Songline”, whose 2010 blog we had downloaded on to Susie’s Ipad and which we had studied before left. The locals were happy to see their photos on the Ipad. They visited morning and afternoon usually staying for tea and biscuits or cake.
On Sunday the wind had eased enough to allow us to go ashore without being concerned for the security of the boat. We toured the village which is remarkably tidy and has the makings of streets defined by straight lines of shrubs. The only water on this island is provided by two water storage tanks courtesy of the EU, the village chapel has one, and the other is on a private “house”. Roofing iron has only recently been added to some thatched houses in lieu of the traditional pandanus and palm thatch. Every family (there are about 20 on this island) has been given a solar powered camping lantern, each morning they are put outside tilted towards the sun with a cloth wrapped around the lens to protect it. We also learnt that the government supplies 2 mosquito nets per family, whether this is a one off or annual we were unable to determine.
The island population continues to grow and is in desperate need of infrastructure. And to some extent the village has extended its fishing beyond the reef, catching ocean fish, packing them in ice in large ice chests and then the banana boat with 40hp outboard transports it at high speed to get to the fish market in Alotau 2hrs away.
A couple of large sailing canoes came and went to Watts Island 5 miles away and beyond, amazing to watch! These sailors are very skilled in sailing their boats. One of the local island trading boats arrived, well overloaded with both passengers and goods to take to the Calvados Islands. They stayed overnight and asked me for the weather forecast which we were able to give them, having downloaded the GRIB files from Winlink the afternoon before and also getting confirmation of the BOM forecast from Ashley in Townsville.
A catamaran came in, “Muskat” with Nils and Mitah on board, then a large power boat, “Wyllaway” returned having previously visited before heading to Misima. Henry John keeps a visitor’s book for all the visitors. We really enjoyed Hummock Island and its people. To be perfectly honest, it would have been nice to spend even more time with them. We met so many of them, too many to name all, but Miriam does lovely basket weaving.
So what was our hurry? We wanted to get to the Calvados Group to try and catch up with Dean on “Bella Amalfi”. By now, we had managed to get emails via Dean’s dad who kept us abreast of his whereabouts and goings on. Dean was thinking of heading off to the Solomon’s for a couple of weeks before returning here.
Eastward, we pushed on, knowing full well that we would have to “motor sail” to make the easting against the trade winds. Fortunately for us, the strong winds were abating making our windward trek somewhat easier. Our next leg was from Hummock Island in the Engineer Group, to Ltamarina (sometimes spelt with and L or an I) in the Conflict Island Group lagoon, some 34nm away. We were unfortunate to travel against the current for most of the morning however, our progress was somewhat improved when the current changed in our favour after lunch. We trolled a fishing line with a spoon on it but to no avail until we made the entrance to the lagoon when a Spanish mackerel was hooked, we pulled in the line right up to the duckboard, I had a pair of fish grips holding his bottom jaw but it squirmed and twisted and escaped! We still had a few miles to travel across the lagoon to the anchorage so we threw the line back in and within minutes hooked up a good size kingfish. We anchored at the uninhabited Ltamarina Island and went ashore with 2 weeks worth of plastic waste and the fish, so while Susie filleted the fish I made a fire and got rid of the rubbish. We rinse then cut up all our non bio-degradable waste and pack it in wine cask bladders (reducing smell) until it is chockers, then store it in the anchor well until we have an opportunity to burn it, seems to work very well.
From Ltamarina Island we headed to the De Boyne Group of Islands anchoring at Nivani Island and going ashore to Panapompom Island. An island adjacent is called Pannaete where they are well known for their boat building (sailing canoes). One lady who paddled out to us warned there had been a problem in the past with theft from boats so rather than take the risk we went ashore on Panapompom and found Pastor Stanley and the Chapel Treasurer Martin and gave them the big old genoa that we had brought from Townsville. This was a gift as opposed to trading and we told them to either use it on their chapel canoe of sell it or make it into smaller sails, they were happy.
I spent some time trying to find the wreck of a Japanese Zero which was supposed to be near where we anchored but the wind chop made it too hard to see below the surface. Next morning we left early for the Calvados Group, our original destination.
Calvados Group 13 September ……
Following our early departure from the anchorage at Nivani Island we motor sailed in 5-10knts of ESE wind crossing the de Boyne Group lagoon and out through the Nivani Pass, which is about 0.5 mile wide and was correctly positioned on our Navionics charts. We crossed the deep channel between and entered the Calvados Group via the Horaki Raki Passage. The depth changed from over 1000 m to 20 m in a distance of 100m, the current and tide causing massive overfalls and eddies but due to the moderate conditions they did not cause us any problems. As it was still only mid-morning, we agreed to keep going eastwards until the wind or the tide made progress too slow.
After a couple of hours we were close to one of our potential stopping places at Gigila Island when Susie suddenly noticed an AIS signal. Surprise, surprise, “Bella Amalfi” was just leaving Robinson Bay! After a brief chat over the radio, we agreed to go a few miles and anchor at the bay on the western end of Pana Wina Island. Following a Champagne reunion, we exchanged notes on what had happened since we parted on 27/28 August.
While we caught up, we watched five or six well loaded sailing canoes set sail for Hobruk School on Pana Tinani Island, going to attend Saturday sport the following day. The locals, now numbering considerably less in the village; in particular Magistrate Robert Nelson, became a fixture on both boats with continuing suggestions about how we could help his village. When we went ashore to view his new church, we were asked to fix the leaking taps from the dam. The poly pipes had been installed several years ago and many yachties including friends; Trevor and Elaine from Townsville had done varying amounts of work on their system. The new church has cost over 60,000 kina or AU$35,000, it is four times bigger than the old thatch church and has a concrete slab and a tin roof, hot as hell, and the next cyclone will destroy it.
We are finding many locals are asking for high priced goods for trades, which is somewhat off putting. We have also been asked outright for money and other gifts with no trading offered. However we have also been able to trade fairly. For instance, we have traded some material ($10); 100mt braided 45kg fishing line ($10), a few large hooks and sugar for 3 crayfish. Another time we traded a LED torch with batteries, a dozen or more assorted hooks, pair of shorts, a T shirt and something else (forgot) for 4 crayfish, a couple of shells for some rice, or fruit for sugar.
Our next stop was at the island of Nimowa anchoring in the NW corner in 19mts over a sandy bottom. A mile to the south is the Catholic Mission Station with Father Tony (almost certainly the same Father Tony we had heard about when we were cruising 30yrs ago) who has been a missionary in the islands since the 1963. His Church and the Mission School with several teachers, where the Principal is a young man called Ambrose. Ambrose’s family could no longer afford his teacher training fees and he has taken this paid position to administer the school. Once he has saved enough money, he will return to Alotau to complete his course.
The Mission Hospital is staffed by Sister Sarah (18yrs experience), and 9 other nurses working 4 hour shifts due to an acute water shortage. It was here that we gave the 2 enormous bags of sheets, pillowcases, and towels given to us by Frank of Delta Laundry from Ayr, and all the medicines and dressings we and others had collected, mosquito nets, nappies and new born baby clothes. We also included a few baby bottles for those either unable to breast feed or worse as maternal complications and death rates are rather high. Susie included bendy straws for sick children and she also gave her 2008 Australian Immunisation Handbook and a couple of issues of “Primary Times”, which were much appreciated. We now have a bit more space in the boat!
Most nurses have completed a 3yr Certificate in Nursing in Alotau, except for 2, namely Joanna and Pious who had completed a 4yr Diploma in Nursing in Alotau. Last year 252 births were delivered, many people treated with cuts and infections, pathology, including laboratory testing for malaria, broken bones stabilised before transporting by Ambulance boat to Misima, a 5hr trip away. They do childhood immunisations with Pentavalent vaccines, hold maternal and child health clinics. They do health education including Oral health clinics, nutritional checks and act as health advocates enabling the locals to make informed choices within the Catholic credence. Their competence and work is very impressive with so little. The day before we left Nimowa, a sailing canoe carrying 18 people (mostly mothers of wee babies) arrived to attend the hospital clinic.
We had overheard that the school has little funding for the numbers of students present and gifted them one of 4 school packs we had made up, these include a dozen or so exercise books, pens, pencils, biros, erasers, sharpeners, chalk and a few old issues of “National Geographic”, together with a new soccer ball and netball.
The day before Independence Day, we moved anchorage closer to the Mission to watch the celebrations, not the best of anchorages but good under the calm conditions we presently have. Our anchor is set in 24mts in sand, so we have a fair amount of chain and rode out.
September 16 is Independence Day in New Guinea and is the cause of village games, soccer, netball and volleyball competitions and 2hr Mass which we attended. The surrounding villages send their children in traditional dress and together with the singing, it was a memorable occasion. Under the boys’ pandanas leaf genital cover, many a pair of “Calvin Klein” jocks could be seen! More soccer followed the Mass and one of the high lights of the trip was being taken for a ride in one of their sailing canoes. Three canoes went out in about 15 knots of wind and sailed a triangular “race” for our benefit, each boat carried one DimDim (white man). To reciprocate Dean and I took 10 of them out on “Bella Amalfi” and sailed the same course. The locals were concerned about the way Dean’s boat heeled over in the wind gusts, their canoes have outriggers so they heel very little. A great time was had by all. The following day the Grand Final soccer match was held between the Mission School team and the Nimowa Villages team, it doesn’t matter who won (2 all), they and we all had fun.
The school has a satellite dish and is the centre of a network to other schools in the area via microwave links, it sounds impressive but the download speed is similar to what we had in the early 90’s. We both were able to checked our email containing heaps of rubbish despite unsubscribing before we left.
Before leaving Nimowa, Dean organised a get together with Father Tony on “Bella Amalfi” and the crew from “Escapades”, it was a great opportunity to talk to him about the challenges these island communities face. On previous nights, Dean had rigged up a screen (large bed sheet) using a projector that he had brought with him, showing movies such as “Ice Age 2” and “Avatar” and other movies, he was very popular.
Dean also put together a wonderful photo “montage” from all the pictures we all had taken, myself and Susie, Dean and also Greg on “Escapades” which is available to view at the following website, it is well worth a look. http://www.vimeo.com/findingdino/louisiades. This was also shown to the villagers one night instead of a movie. The villagers were spell bound and silent at the end, then they erupted with claps, they loved it!
Early on 18 September we spoke to Ashley and Brenda on “Ashymakaihken” who are soon to make their landfall in PNG at Duchateau Pass. Unfortunately we are 50 miles away due east, I’m sure that we will meet sometime in the next few weeks as we head back westwards.
We had intended to sail on to another anchorage but Dean had arranged for Father Tony to bless “Bella Amalfi”, for which I am sure Dean’s mother will be very happy about. It was a lovely little service held at 4.30pm, followed by champagne just as the sun was descending. Following the service we moved, returning to the NW anchorage to get out of the wind against current chop. We anchored further inshore than our previous visit to this bay and as a result got in amongst the coral, the anchor grumbled and snagged so much so we decided to move further out, which was a challenge as the chain was snagged under coral about 15 metres below us, eventually it came loose and we moved into deeper water where we managed to anchor in sand. Because it was dark I noticed sparks in the anchor well as the anchor was coming up when we were trying to get away from the coral, next morning the windlass would on power down and not up…… Closer inspection I found a connection that had come loose, so after a clean and tightening the connection, we were all back in action. Trying to lift a 65lb anchor attached to 20 metres of chain hanging straight down is not good for me!
Next day (19th) we sailed (yes, that was novel for us), to another anchorage called Hati Lawi Harbour, supposed to be free of locals, we’ll wait and see. “Free of locals” is a relative concept, nowhere is free of locals, there are so many little villagers all dotted along the coast and the villagers’ gardens are up hillsides so there is quite a bit of canoe traffic throughout. This place appears to have fewer than other places. I must admit that after the first three canoes came and we placed our order for ripe bananas, a pawpaw and some crayfish the others went away. Susie made bread and yoghurt while doing the laundry, the accumulated rubbish from the last 10 days was burnt on a nearby coral island. G&T in the cockpit with Dean, in a very calm anchorage.
Townsville and Getting Ready
19 August 2013 | Townsville
Nick/Cool nights, hot days
7 June 2013 onwards
We left off the last blog in Townsville having replaced the batteries in “Water Music” and sent my sick laptop away for repair.
Old friends Ashley and Brenda who are planning on sailing in company with us to the Louisiades have lived on their boat for many years and were our neighbours in the Breakwater Marina when we arrived here 15 years ago. They have a car and have generously allowed us to use it from time to time. They also have a strong sewing machine which they lent us and Susie spent ages catching up with a number of sewing projects which have been mounting up, as her old Elna is no longer able to tackle the heavier jobs such as canvas etc. The list of sewing tasks Susie completed is amazing.
We also embarked on the task of acquiring “things” to take to PNG. The Louisiade people are subsistence farmers and fishermen with little hard currency income except for a limited period each year when they gather and dry beche de mer (sea slug) to sell. As a result their economy is based on barter rather than cash so in order to buy fruit and vegetables from the locals we need “trade goods”. The question is what and how much and then the key question is what is the value of a tube of silicone to a canoe builder in PNG? Over the last few months we have researched the subject and developed lists which can be separated into trade goods and gifts, the challenge is to find these items at the lowest cost, size and weight due to the limits of boat capacity. We are now experts on the contents of all the discount and charity shops in Townsville.
We had dinner with old friends Rohan & Julie whose son Ben was at school with Alexander and Ray & Liz who were also mutual friends. Following a gastronomic treat prepared by Julie we reciprocated with lunch on board which went very well and ended up with Rohan leaving his car for us to use! Spoilt is an understatement. The charity shops, BCF and Bunning’s all took another hit.
In the meantime, another major task on the boat was completed – relocating the anchor winch solenoid switch. The manufacturer clearly states that it should be installed in a dry location so Catalina chose to install it in the anchor locker which gets very humid and wet when the anchor chain is brought up and stored in the locker. Catalina are not alone in doing this, we had similar problems on “Next Chapter” and “Peta Lynne” (oops – I did the install). The solution was to remove all the interior shelving and panelling from the forward cabin and get new cables made up to be able to put the controls under the bunk. It did involve some modification to the joinery panels as the battens which they are fixed to are 10 mm thick and the new cables were nearly 15 mm thick. We also discovered the source of a leak which has bothered us for a long time. See Blog # 5 from November 2011 (which also describes the last time the hard drive on my laptop failed when we were in Port Macquarie).
The bulkhead at the rear of the chain locker is supposed to be water tight according to Catalina, not only had they not sealed around the cable feeding the anchor winch, they left gaps at the top of the bulkhead under the toe rails. When the wet anchor chain is stowed, then the sun beats down on the deck it creates moisture which condenses on the underside of the deck and eventually runs back as the boat heals over then the moisture enters the forward cabin. Nothing that a tube of silicone can’t fix says I, quickly grabbing a tube purchased the day before from Mitre 10, just my luck to get old stock, it was solid. Fortunately I had bought some cheaper stuff from Bunning’s to take to PNG as trade goods and it worked well.
We arranged to meet up with the local Port Officer for the OCC, Mike Croker, who offered to take our leaky dinghy to the repairers. The attempts at repairs that I had made when we were in Tin Can Bay were only partially successful and when I saw the proper air conditioned workshop used by these people who repair life rafts, I was confident they would be able to stop the water coming in!
After 2 weeks use we felt we had to return Rohan’s car, so it got a good wash and clean. We’ve noticed everything at the Breakwater Marina gets a good coating of whatever is being loaded at the adjacent Port of Townsville.
Liz has generously given us her old sewing machine so it was sent for a service and maybe then the old Elna can retire.
Susie has been busy “canning” meals for our trip and working out menus and shopping lists. We will be away for approx. 10 weeks and we do not want to rely on what may or may not be available at the Chinese stores in the islands. Based on recent experience, neither can we rely on my ability to catch fish! Supply ships go from Townsville to PNG regularly and those goods are then distributed from the main ports through the islands but previous experience warns that you cannot rely on these things happening when you want or need them. We have also heard of a couple of places where internet is available but slow, we shall have wait and see.
We were in the Marina here for six weeks while we did the doctor, dentist, hygenist, opthamologist, including eye specialists. All this takes time waiting for appointments etc.
After six weeks in the marina I needed a break from life in the big smoke and as the dinghy finally arrived back from the doctor having had it’s leaky bottom patched up by the experts. There now was no reason why we should not go for a shakedown cruise to make sure all the bits that we had been fiddling with and fixing worked properly.
On arrival at Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island, I discovered water on the floor in the workshop, this was the first of the “MIF’s” (Maintenance Induced Failures). With all the best intentions I had replaced the 100 mm diameter hose clamps on the exhaust anti-syphon U-tube with much more substantial hose clamps which have an 8 mm bolt to tighten. I was nervous about over tightening it and crushing the pipe inside when I installed it, so with Susie running the engine at different speeds, I tightened it up until it stopped spitting and hissing and now we have no more leaks - hurray! The second MIF was discovered when Susie found some diesel in the bilge, once again I had been nervous about over tightening things and had not applied enough pressure when I stripped and cleaned the fuel filter bowls weeks ago. They do look much better without the cruddy bits inside! Next time we motor for an hour it will show whether I fixed it.
There are between 15 and 25 other boats in Horseshoe Bay, when we were here in June there were many foreign and Aussie boats heading for Darwin and places beyond, now those that remain are mostly silver sailors looking for somewhere warm and safe for the winter just like the grey nomads in caravan parks and on thebroads in North Queensland. We had a BBQ ashore with a group of yachties from the Shag Island Yacht club http://www.sicyc.org/sicyc/sicycwebsite.nsf which was fun. One night we tried one of the local restaurants who managed to serve Susie the wrong main course, we will not be recommending Barefoot Art Food & Wine to anyone.
We have been anchored in Horseshoe Bay for two weeks. For several days the wind has been over 20-25 knots which is not pleasant, but when the wind drops it is beautiful. We made a trip to Nelly Bay on the bus after walking all the way to the old forts. We had a good look around Nellie Bay Marina and tried to contact Howard but to no avail, finally we settled for a pie for lunch, those pies were not as good as Otto’s in Townsville.
The water maker decided to play up, I think as a result of being disconnected and reconnected several times when we were messing about with the batteries, after going through the repair manual, internet forums and emails to the manufacturer it seems to be behaving. I find it very annoying that the chemical cleaners we may need to keep it working properly are available in Australia at exorbitant prices, a 200 gram container that costs US$19 costs $46.20 here. I found a company willing to send it to us from USA but the freight was $55!
The next challenge was the outboard motor, it was not spitting out water. The owners’ manual says to take it to a Honda agent, great when you in the middle of nowhere! Once again the internet provided the answer with a UTube video of how to change the impellor. We took it to the beach along with the “kit” I had bought from the Honda agent in Townsville, followed the instructions and put it back in the water, NBG (no bloody good)! I took it apart again to find the new impellor was the wrong diameter for the shaft. So, here we go again, re-assemble with old impellor so we can get back to the boat anchored out in the bay to get another impellor. I checked the size this time, back to beach, remove the gear box and propeller and install the new impellor, tested it and after a little poking with a wire (Susie’s idea) it now pees like a good’un.
For those of you who have never cruised on a yacht, cruising is defined in two ways, either going from port to port doing repairs or doing repairs in exotic places, which ever you choose, it seems to be constant.
We have met and made new friends amongst the boats who have come and gone while we have been anchored. One of them gave us a couple of prawns for bait which Susie managed to catch a javelin or grunter fish, which we had for dinner and then these generous people shared some more javelin they had caught. Beautiful eating fish.
Heading back to Townsville in the next day or so catch up with friends who are arriving from Sydney and to do all the remaining stocking up of stores for 10 weeks. At least the credit card will have a long holiday!
The saga continues about the MIF’s. Following changing the oil and filter on the main engine I did the same to the generator. I had been to Super Cheap Auto to source new non OEM filters as the ones for the generator are horribly expensive when posted from the distributor in Sydney. As usual after installing a new filter I tried to run the generator for a few minutes to get the oil into the filter, no go, I then went for a look and the filter had blown off and over a litre of oil had drained out – yuk! The low oil pressure cut out had stopped the engine from running and I was left with the task of mopping up the mess, just as well the generator has it’s own drip tray so at least it didn’t go into the bilge. We went back to Super Cheap Auto who gave me two new filters with ¾ inch thread instead of the 20mm ones that appear to fit but don’t stay on under pressure. Fortunately I had an original filter, my last one, which I installed, refilled the oil and it all ran sweetly.
More shopping including a small portable fridge to be sure we have enough meat for 10 weeks, a new battery and SIM card for the SatPhone – which I will activate the day we leave, then I should know the number!
Father’s Day came early in the form of a small underwater camera Canon D20, so wait for interesting pictures on the next blogs when we get decent internet again.
As some of you already know my Gmail address book was hacked and 500+ emails were sent out saying I was in Cypress and had my bag stolen and please send money….., thank you to all for your concern, we were inundated by calls and emails. I have deleted the address book on Gmail and I am thinking of getting rid of Facebook because that’s where they found out information about me.
It has been great to catch up with so many old friends in Townsville, they have lent us cars, entertained us and helped us with all the little jobs that needed doing.
We are planning on clearing customs and leaving from Townsville in the last week of August probably stopping overnight at Orpheus Island or Great Palm Island to enable us to transit the Barrier Reef in daylight and sail the 600 miles to the eastern end of The Louisiades. This will allow us to cruise the islands from east to west with the wind behind us most of the way. Internet coverage will be infrequent and probably only available in two locations in towns where we will not want to stay too long. Keep a look out for us on Winlink.
When we do not have internet we can still send and receive email, weather and position reports via our HF radio using my call sign VK4SLH. Go to Winlink (http://www.winlink.org/userPositions) and type VK4SLH at the bottom of the page.
If you want to send us an email our address is VK4SLH@winlink.org which goes in the To:… space and in the subject space insert the following text… //WL2K Greetings from (your name) Emails are transmitted via the internet to land based ham radio stations who relay them via HF radio. Messages should be kept short and not contain photos or large files which will be hard to download. Remember the old days when dial up modems ran at 1440Mbs or earlier, it is like that.
Whitsundays and on to Townsville
07 June 2013 | Townsville
Nick / Sunny 27 degrees
We ended the last blog on Monday 29 April when we were at Burning Cove on Shaw Island watching Cyclone Zane develop. Zane stayed well north but we did get the strong SE winds from a ridge up the coast. After 3 nights we made an early start and headed to Cid Harbour, catching the last couple of hours of the ebb tide so the 20 - 25 knot wind and tide were going the same way. The sea was smooth and we sailed along making 8 knots and more at times.
Following several nights at the picturesque anchorage of Cid Harbour with poor phone and internet coverage, and no TV, the wind blew and blew with gale warnings posted then easing to strong wind warnings. The anchorage remained fairly calm with bullets causing us to move around a little. Just over the hill at Hamilton Island they were recording a steady 25 knots and the charter vessels were restricted to the western side of the Whitsunday Islands. We had good company in the anchorage with Pam and Barry on “Minx”.
I spent two days trying to problem solve the generator that would run but not produce power, eventually we booked ourselves into Abel Point Marina at Airlie Beach and contacted an Electrician making a tentative appointment. The night before we left Cid Susie did some research on the Net and found an article dated 2007 which closely described our problem so after a bit of poking around and cleaning contacts we managed to get the generator working again. However, we still went to Airlie Beach and did some shopping before leaving only to bash directly into the wind and waves to get back to Cid Harbour. We were covered in salt spray but fortunately a couple of timely showers passed over and washed the boat for us. We had really wanted to do the 4 hour walk to the Whitsunday Island look-out but the rain made it unpleasant for walking, so that will be “a next time must do”.
Leaving Cid for Nara Inlet on Hook Island 5 miles away, we had a fast sail under full rig. We did do the walk to the caves where the aboriginal art is located, this is a walk we have done before, but the council has made improvements. It is quite tastefully done with a talking tree! We also had a visit from one of the local cockatoos who sat on the davits and squawked at us, no doubt it had been fed by charter boats, but it was not getting anything from us!
The first night the generator played up again but it worked the following morning and we managed to charge the batteries. I’m getting very frustrated. Once again the gale warnings were forecast with winds of 25-30 knots for the next couple of days, with rain and overcast conditions the solar panels are not very effective. Quite a swell managed to creep into Nara particularly at high tide which made conditions ordinary at times. It was a restless night with the strong gusts coming in the Inlet and heavy rain at times. With such conditions we stayed put instead of being able to visit some of the nearby bays where the scenery is supposed to be very pretty but the anchorages more swell prone in strong wind conditions. At least the waterfalls were all in full spate.
After 4 nights in Nara we needed a change of scenery, the forecast was for the winds to ease. We up anchored and sailed to Stonehaven anchorage on the NW corner of Hook Island overlooking the Hayman Island resort. We picked up a public mooring with a 3 inch diameter pennant, the buoy kept bumping us until I pulled it up as short as possible, we had a good night. It is very pretty.
Leaving Stonehaven at first light to make the 30 mile sail to the mainland, under fast sailing conditions dodging cloud bursts of rain and seeing a couple of lovely rainbows en-route. We keep hearing of people trolling lines and catching fish and we have trolled but have caught nothing and I suspect that our lack of catching is probably due to sailing too fast in ordinary conditions.
We arrived at the anchorage at Gloucester Passage, the well-known home of Montes Resort and the now even more famous Shag Island Yacht Club. A new eco resort was built here 8 years ago so we picked up one of their moorings and had fish and chips ashore for lunch. The mooring cost us $25 per night which was a bit rich but worth it to be able to dump a week’s worth of garbage and have a long hot shower. We used our own anchor on the second night after having had lunch at Montes Resort. Susie maintained that it was only fair to eat out twice to compare the two restaurants. Montes’ is the better! The winds have finally eased and a few calm days will help make up for the blasting we have had. It is also a change not to be surrounded by the ever moving fleet of charter boats in the Whitsundays.
We thought we would be motoring across the bay to Bowen but ended up having a pleasant sail and the wind eased when we entered the very tight confines of Bowen Harbour where we leased a berth from the North Queensland Cruising Yacht Club for a week for the princely sum of $214. Unfortunately the bistro was closed for renovation but the beer is still cold and the people are very friendly.
Once again we caught up with the crew on “Minx” who had been in Bowen for a couple of days and also the crew from “Second Wind” who we had met in the Sandy Straits last year. It was purely coincidental that they had come down from Babinda to check on “Second Wind”, they had also met “Minx” last year too, so it was a good get together.
Old friends from the Gold Coast (John & Dell) live in Bowen for part of each year and have generously taken us our for tours of the town and it’s several beaches and bays. We were spoilt. We had lunch out with them one day and then dinner at the Golf Club on another and roast at the Pub on another. We enjoyed the Bowen, the friendly people, and the many “murals” decorating some of the walls around town.
We stayed an extra day, hoping for better weather and left early before the wind strengthened making manoeuvring out of our tight berth not too hard. We had to get to Horseshore Bay on Magnetic Island for a special birthday party by Saturday.
We had a mixed day of sailing, catching a small shark which ended up chewing through the leader and getting away with Susie’s brand new lure. She was not happy!
Because of the south-south westerly wind with the potential for a north westerly we anchored in the southern part of the huge bay protected by Cape Upstart. Waterfront properties dot the foreshore of Cape Upstart beneath boulders, making for a nice outlook. The sunset was spectacular and it was a peaceful night but we were up very early for the 72 mile trip to Magnetic Island.
After 3 hours motoring which charged our dying batteries, the wind increased to a steady 20 - 25 knots gusting higher at times. With the just forward of the mast there was a fair bit of crashing and bashing and sea spray flying, not the most comfortable but fast! We arrived at Horseshoe Bay at 3 pm.
We celebrated Barry’s 65th birthday, skipper of “Minx” at a bistro called Noodies. Good fun with great company, except for the high tide on the full moon which meant our dinghy was a little bit too far offshore when we wanted to go back to the boat. The water was more than waist deep, with the wind and cooler weather it was cold, ho-hum!
Great excitement! We took the bus and the ferry to Townsville and collected our mail from Ashley and Brenda, great to see them after 4 years. Then took a walk around the re-vamped Flinders Street, dropped my broken watch for repair, bought new sneakers (the old ones had holes and anti-fouling on them) then had lunch of beer and shared pizza at the Post Office Brewery.
The generator continues to cause sleepless nights and exasperation (baldness). While anchored in Horseshoe Bay we relied on the generator to recharge the batteries, particularly in the windy overcast conditions. The motor would start but no power was being produced. A four pronged attack was planned, Susie was again unleashed on the internet following her previous success, whilst I went looking for obvious faults loose wires etc. I email to the manufacturer and sent a plea to the “cruisers forum” on the internet. Both Susie and I failed to produce anything new. The “cruisers forum” provided a good response which proved we are not alone in having this problem but then Northern Lights responded to my email, hurray! Over the next couple of days we exchanged information describing the normal use, loads etc.
• If the climate is warm you should be holding the Preheat/Bypass switch for about 10 seconds before cranking and an additional 5 seconds or until the oil pressure has come up after starting.
• Load the unit very heavily almost over load it if possible but only for a very short time. By doing this you will put very high voltage to the exciter field and hopefully raise the residual magnetism of the Rotor.
• This magnetism is what gets the voltage going upon start-up of the unit, if it is low it may sometimes not get the AC Regulator started.
• When shutting down remove all load, let the motor run for a few minutes and then turn off.
This has worked well thus far, however I have ordered a spare set of brushes. Many thanks to Northern Lights for their advice, it’s a pity their User Manuals are not more prescriptive.
Note: Allan and Alison. Northern Lights confirmed that inverter / chargers are very hard on small generators and that if the charger is working hard it will upset the delicate controls of a washing machine. We had recently worked this out ourselves and the French bitch has been behaving since!
We are staying at Horseshoe Bay for a week before going to the Breakwater Marina in Townsville where we will stay for a month or more hopefully escaping to Horseshoe Bay from time to time.
There are 20 yachts in the Bay, mostly foreign and mostly headed for Darwin and Indonesia. We organised a beach BBQ which was fun. Eight foreign boats another Australian boat and ourselves came together, it was a delightful evening.
We have now settled into Townsville and are starting our long list of chore. The list was on my computer which died the day we arrived here. It is under an extended warranty and has since been sent for repair. Unfortunately we have had to replace the 8 batteries which form the domestic power supply, ouch! Several jobs have already been completed and we are now starting to catch up with our friends having been away from Townsville for ten years. Already we have bumped into people. Yesterday we had a delightful lunch with Nick & Erica “Jepeda II”, who are heading northwards to Indonesia and beyond.
For those people who wish to keep more up to date with our position reports I update our position on a website called Skipr.net (http://skipr.net/wp/where-is/currently-cruising/) This site works well when we have internet coverage and is more frequently updated than the monthly blogs.
When we do not have internet we can still send and receive email, weather and position reports via our HF radio using my call sign VK4SLH. Go to Winlink (http://www.winlink.org/userPositions) and type VK4SLH at the bottom of the page. If you want to send us an email our address is also VK4SLH which goes in the To:… space and in the subject space insert the following text //WL2K Greetings from (your name) Emails are transmitted via the internet to land based ham radio stations who relay them via HF radio. Messages should be kept short and not contain photos or large files which will be hard to download. Remember the old days when dial up modems ran at 1440Mbs or earlier, it is like that.
We also appear from time to time on the Marine Traffic site (http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/) Susie can transmit a signal to this site from her Ipad when we have internet coverage and we also appear when our AIS signal from the boat is received by a land based station or a ship connected to their system via the internet. This usually only occurs near major ports.
28 April 2013
Nick / Windy
28 March onwards
We ended the last blog the day before the Easter holidays while anchored at Pancake Creek. The weather was stunning and we watched the keen local fishermen who have invaded the Creek for the Easter long weekend arrive to unpack their tinnies and set up camps along the beach. There are now several groups camping on the beach and quite a few tinnies whizzing around. Amazing how these single outboard motored boats had launched from somewhere near Tannum Sands and negotiated the seas around the head of the Rodd Peninsular, then into Pancake Creek, bringing all they needed, including fresh water, some staying for ten days. We counted at least five camps. One was set up on an island towards well within Pancake Creek. Another couple of tents at the top spot on the little beach at the head of Chinamans’ Creek, from where at a decent high tide you can enter the Jenny Lind Creek system, a couple of tents just in front of where we were anchored. Yet another camp on the beach at the outer anchorage, where we have heard there is a tap with fresh water, but as we did not check this out, we cannot confirm.
On Saturday afternoon we saw “Wild Thing” out to sea in the distance as she led the fleet in the Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race. Shortly followed by several other racing yachts all flying spinnakers in follow the leader style, in not very challenging conditions.
“Minx” had left to head northwards and was replaced by Terry on another catamaran called “San-e-t”. He is a keen fisherman and crabber and gave us some frozen Spanish Mackerel which Susie used cooking a Red Thai Curry, which was fantastic. We saved a portion of the curried fish for him, and in return Terry gave us three mud crabs.
We took the walk up to the Bustard Head Lighthouse on Easter Sunday, it was very hot day. The track to the lighthouse is getting overgrown with shoulder high weeds in places, it’s about 5 kms round trip passing through a variety of different environments. We noticed many trees down over the track (from ex cyclone Oswald) which required climbing over or under. There were a huge number of butterflies, Susie counted at least thirteen different varieties, not that we could name any of them, we also so saw several monitor lizards of different colours and markings and sizes.
Stuart Buchannan (the last lighthouse keeper) was there for a three week visit to prepare for the grand opening of the lighthouse to the public. You may remember that last year when we visited, Stuart had given us the rare opportunity into and up the lighthouse, prior to its official public opening. This time we remember to take some money so we could visit the museum. Stuart gave us his time for a private tour of both the museum and his house including an amazing collection of photographs before he was to talk a tourist group who had arrived from 1770 on the LARC, so it was a busy day for Stuart with people everywhere.
When we got back Terry called us over and gave us another mud crab and some more fish. Very generous and kind hearted. He’s leaving tomorrow to head north; no doubt we will see him again somewhere.
All day we kept seeing race boats heading towards Gladstone. But then we saw Wild Thing heading southwards, she was heading back even before some of the others had finished.
Except for a couple of the happy camping fishermen, all but one other boat have left, this now being Easter Monday (1st April) we are staying put as it has been so restful. That is not to say that chores have been not been done ie. the washing, the ironing, bread and yoghurt making, biscuits etc. Eventually the outer anchorage began to fill with returning race boats including the sail training schooner “North Passage”, who more than probably had the ladies of the charity “Red Kite” aboard returning to Brisbane, the charity women do the race every year.
German friends, Carsten & Mercedes on their boat “Forty Two” arrived. It was good to catch up with them and see how the repairs to the hull had turned out. The loads from the mast stays had caused the sides of the boat to deflect (old fibreglass boat). While Carsten & Mercedes were away in Germany, when we were in Tin Can Bay Marina, Having loosened the rigging, I had been visiting their boat every few days to tighten up an Acrow prop which was being used to push the boat back to its correct shape.
In all we spent 13 nights at Pancake Creek, during which time we had 4-5 days of blasting south east winds of 30+knots that kept us in the creek rather longer than anticipated. Pancake Creek is such a safe anchorage but it gets a bit trying over time as the boat sails around a bit in the wind from one direction and the tide from the other for two periods of each day.
When conditions and tides eased we moved into the outer anchorage in preparation to leaving Pancake Creek. Our plans were to head towards Targine Creek before the Narrows. Initially we sailed nicely against the tide but later in the early afternoon the wind dropped so on with the iron foresail.
Heading towards Gladstone is always interesting because of the number of ships in the area. We made the mandatory call to Gladstone Harbour Control to advise them of our intentions, there were no major ship movements due. En route we changed our plans and decided to head into Gladstone Marina.
We have not been to Gladstone or the Marina before and were pleasantly surprised how neat and tidy all the gardens and buildings appeared, the staff were helpful and helped us tie up and gave us keys etc. Then surprisingly, (they had planned to visit Colosseum inlet but also changed their minds) “Forty Two” came in a couple of hours behind us and after much needed showers we all had dinner at the Yacht Club. The food was average, ho-hum. A Praying Mantis joined us while we had dinner, which was fun.
We hired a car for a day and did the shopping, got our flu jabs and went to a couple of tourist spots before heading to Tannum Sands for a pub lunch and returning the car. There are several free tours of major industries available in Gladstone but these were booked out because of the Easter school holidays, next time, maybe. But we did book ourselves on a harbour cruise, this sounds silly as we already have a boat but the tour guide was very informative and the 2.5 hour trip was well worth it. There are billions of dollars being spent on four separate LNG plants as well as more coal loading and other infrastructure. We even talked about buying some “hi vis” shirts at St Vinnies, so we would not stick out so much…..
There are more strong wind warnings and rain forecast but these appeared to be worse offshore and as we need to get over the shallows in the Narrows we needed to leave or we would have missed the opportunity. We left the Marina at 6 am to catch the tide through the Narrows, we made good time through the harbour and had to slow down so as not to arrive too early. Susie kept a log of our depths as we went, the least depth we had was 2.40 metres, we need 1.80 metres. Not only is it narrow it is very shallow, in fact at the lowest tide of the year the place where we had 2.40 metres is out of the water by 2.0 metres!
Transiting Gladstone Harbour and the Narrows is always a bit stressful, with the harbour traffic and dredgers etc. followed by the Narrows so we were relieved to get to the other end and find a sheltered anchorage to hide from the strong wind. Barker Creek became our home for the next few nights. Local crab fisherman passed us twice a day and other that we saw no one. We tried our crab pot and nearly lost it, just by chance I went outside during the evening just in time to see our float going past us with the rising tide, it was rescued but whoever had been trying to open the cat food tin inside decided to leave. It was a big change of scenery from the sands of Pancake Creek to the Cityscape of Gladstone and now the greasy brown banks of Barker Creek.
Watching the weather again, we’ve had wind blowing at 35knots. Gale warnings and strong wind warnings again.
I made another batch of ginger beer (non alcoholic), managing to bottled it before leaving. Eventually the inshore winds abated, enough for us to head towards Great Keppel Island. We had a pleasant sail, particularly earlier in the day with the winds once again abating during the afternoon. On with the iron foresail. This was not supposed to happen! The forecast was for 20-25 knots!
We anchored off the old resort (soon to be renovated) on the western side where other boats were gently pitching. It looked like a better option than around the other side of the island is usually rolly. Then just after dark the wind started, 20-25 knots.
After an uncomfortable night with little sleep, we moved to Svendsens Beach on the northern side which was quite pleasant, before motoring across to Rosslyn Bay for a week in the Keppel Bay Marina. This was our 1st mail stop since leaving Tin Can Bay Marina, although we did have some mail forwarded to Urangan.
We caught up with an acquaintance, Howard who has two boats. He commutes by car between Rosslyn Bay and Townsville, convenient for his work. Howard offered to drive us to Rockhampton as the car needed new tyres, so we went along for the ride doing a little shopping on the way. While we were in Rosslyn Bay “Water Music” had a good wash down. It was a waste of time, the swallows were too numerous especially at sundown, the photo of the boat nearby with the eye painted on the hull shows the little pests.
Again we hired a car and drove to Mt Morgan, about 30 kms SW of Rockhampton where we joined a tour of the old mine site (gold, silver, copper). The start of the tour at the old Mt Morgan rail station was also the meeting place for the Queensland Riley car club rally. There were seven 1950-1953 Riley’s which Susie recalls from her childhood in WA that her Grandfather had one, she has a photo of herself posing with her Mother, little sister and great grandmother. Also there was a One Five Five maroon Riley which my mother used to drive. The memories!
On the way to the mine we were given a tour of the town and Susie even walked across the reproduction suspension bridge while it wobbled and bounced around. There were once three of these. They were needed to cross the deep valleys around the town and get to the mine. The open cut pit now contains a lot of acidic water Ph 3 caused not only by the exposure of the acid sulphate soils and by the processing of the precious metals. The creeks downstream of the mine site look like something you might expect to see in a third world country. Queensland Government is slowly undertaking remediation of the mine site but it covers a huge area and getting something to grow in the harsh environment nutrient lacking in soil is hard. We both enjoyed the tour and collected samples of Fool’s Gold.
More shopping, this time fresh produce as our next planned access to shops will be Airlie Beach in 3-4 weeks. An early start before dawn we headed out for the 56 mile trip to Island Head Creek. A good sail with poled out genoa until the wind died at about 3pm. Our usual stopover at Port Clinton was unavailable due to military exercises. At Island Head Creek we met some people on a syndicated (timeshare) Lightwave 38’ boat who were mad keen fishermen. They generously shared their catch of Black Dewfish (Red Thai curry for dinner).
The promise of fair winds drew us out, after an early start we headed towards our next destination of Marble Island in the Duke Group, all went well until the tide changed and then it was a struggle to make 4 knots at times. So decided to go onto the Percy Islands, 50 miles northwest. It was three days before the full moon and big tides were expected. We found changing course to the north increased our speed, and with more revs, we headed for White’s Bay on Middle Percy Island. The winds were forecast for light NW to NE. After 10 hours motoring we anchored in White’s Bay which is rarely visited because it is used in northerly winds, only a slight swell entered the bay and we had a reasonably good night.
Following a request from a friend relayed via Tony’s Net, we motored around to West Bay to buy honey from the farmer, paying careful attention when we re-anchored as the expected tidal range was for a massive 6.20 metres. The famous Percy Hilton is an amazing collection of boat bits left behind by visiting yachties over many years, due to the light winds of the previous few days the usually rolly anchorage was calm and very pleasant. In actual fact it was glorious. After visiting the Hilton we took the dinghy into the natural harbour behind the beach, it is only accessible at high tide and is almost landlocked.
The forecast for the next day was for increasing SE winds, we set off at 05.15am in the dark on calm seas flat seas. We motored all day, 20mins before we reached our destination of Scawfell Island, suddenly the wind came, 20-25kts. Very sad BOM, you got it wrong again! We had motored 60 miles with hardly a breath. The trolling line had a big hit, broke off a hook and scarred the lure but no fish.
Forecast for 20-25 knots for the next three days, I wonder if they are right this time? They got it right, it blew! We stayed at Scawfell for 1 night only, it is a steep island and in strong weather the bullets of wind keep coming and make the boats swing around as the tidal flow and wind compete for supremacy. The swell creeping in, the rolly became quite uncomfortable.
We left Scawfell, sailed the 32 miles to Goldsmith Island in gusts up to 25 knots and occasional light showers. En route we received our first decent internet signal and downloaded 34 emails. The last email we received just before we entered Island Head Creek on 21 April, four days prior. Goldsmith is snug and is safe in a SE wind, unfortunately there was more of a southerly element in the wind which caused some swell to enter the bay and make it rolly so after one night we headed off again towards Whitsunday Island but diverted to Shaw Island instead, we were not enjoying the 20-25 wind and showers. We anchored in Burning Point Bay with little swell but there is no escape from the wind, at least the island is not too high so we do not get “bullets”. Across the water we can see the old Club Med Resort on Lindeman Island, now defunct but has been bought and one wonders what will happen to it. We have sighted dugongs on several occasions but not much bird life.
The weather has been very ordinary and we are so over winds of 25knots. It seems that we have strong and gale force winds every 20 days or so. The forecast for the next few days is for increasing winds. And now there is the possibility of a late cyclone developing near PNG. All the models indicate the cyclone should stay north of Cairns. We will monitor carefully. Monday 29 April.
27 March 2013 | Pancake Creek
Nick / Blustery
18 February onwards
I forgot to add the photos from the haul out and repaint which I covered in the last blog so I have added them to this one.
Having spent our third month in Tin Can Bay Marina, at long last we unshackled ourselves from the dock, heading off on 28 February to Inskip Point (a Thursday, 'cos it's unlucky to start a trip on a Friday). It was sad, starting over again without our little mate, particularly when looking at the tea tree and mud stained waters looking similar to his wee, we were reminded of how sick he was.
Before we left we were entertained at the Simply Classical concert at St Patrick's Church in Gympie. Amazing how much talent the local region has in its community. A couple of exceptional pianists (including Pam) played the old and slightly out of tune piano with convincing style, a couple of violinists played very nicely, and an incredible gentleman played amazing Bassoon, particularly as the weather was airless, very warm with extremely high humidity. It was such a lovely afternoon listening gorgeous music. Our thanks again to Len and Pam, who we accompanied to the performance. The afternoon weather forecast was for more heavy rain but fortunately it stayed away until the Monday and Tuesday, with another 200 mm event. Tin Can Bay was once again cut off and both Gympie and Maryborough inundated again, those poor people suffering two floods in a month.
When we arrived at Inskip Point there was one other yacht and a houseboat, the last time we were there, there were 10 or 12 yachts heading southwards over the Wide Bay Bar. The next morning (Friday) we left at 0830 with the rising tide, which should have got us to Sheridan Flats just before high tide, but we had not allowed for the considerable amount of flood waters or the amount of debris to dodge coming down from the Mary River, making a much slower trip arriving at Sheridan Flats just after high, which was not a problem draft wise. The flood waters were interesting as we could see Mary Valley red dirt swirling around, almost billowing. The weather was ok so we pushed on hoping to get to Urangan with the falling tide and flood waters and debris (Sheridan Flats is the watershed where the tidal stream reverses), but just past the Kingfisher Resort the rain and thunderstorms started with gusty northerlies, so we ducked in to the anchorage at the South Point of Big Woody in the rain, put down 50 metres of chain and had a very quiet night.
We were up early before the wind picked up and motored in windless torrential rain the 14 miles around Big Woody to Urangan, we had to go the long way because the tide was low, making it into the marina before the wind picked up. The radar proved useful in finding the navigation marks as the visibility was down to half a mile at times. Once again the volume of flood water discharging was of greater force than the tide going in the opposite direction, for once it worked in our favour!
Yeehaa!, people, noise, restaurants, shops, traffic and buses!! Got to remember to look before crossing the roads here!
The rain appeared to have eased this morning, with our raincoats tucked in our backpack we went for a bike ride to Torquay to have a look at the Youth Surf Lifesaving Carnival and also to get bacon and egg burgers for breakfast. We hung around watching the competitions, spotting several ironman champions who were probably mentoring the young ones. The new bikes with the 20 inch wheels do make a difference, they are much easier to ride and easier on the bums. Made it back to the boat just before the rain came down once again.
At last the rain appears to have stopped, but the constant wind has been annoying, it's blowing 25-35 knots. This now being Tuesday, Susie caught a taxi at 1030 for the airport for her trip to Canberra for a meeting with the DVA. She will only away one night and arrived back safely on Wednesday.
On our bike ride we came across a cheap car hire place and decided to hire a car for a couple of days making a quick trip back to Tin Can Bay, taking a German couple we know back with us. It's a bit of a convoluted story but they had to return a hire car to Hervey Bay. It was also an excuse to get some supplies, rubberneck flooded Maryborough and playing tourists visiting Burrum Heads and Howard and other places in between. The boat is stocked up and ready to go when the weather improves.
Using a recipe given to us by Pam and Len on "Kapalua II" we have started a brew of ginger beer. After the initial brewing period, we bottled the brew and stored the bottles on the step down to the duck board with a towel over them just in case one bottle decides to leak or explode, the mess will drain overboard. The acrylic screen stops the bottles from falling overboard.
The weather has been very un-settled, we had been trapped in Tin Can Bay by the rains and flooding caused by ex-tropical cyclone Oswald on 25 January which caused severe flooding in Bundaberg, Maryborough and Gympie. Another tropical depression occurred on 19 February followed by another 200 mm of rain on 26 February caused the towns to flood yet again. Then tropical cyclone Sandra appeared on 8 March and caused big swells as it headed out to sea, cyclone Tim was named on 14 March and hopefully will stay in the north.
Cyclone Tim did stay in the north, eventually the wind and seas subsided and after a stay of 3 weeks we decided to leave Urangan and head for Bundaberg. We motored for nearly eight hours, the wind was too light to sail, a catamaran coming from Moon Point did not even bother to put up his sails. Everywhere there were fish feeding and birds feeding in the clean blue water and even with two hooks trailing astern we did not catch anything, neither did the folks off "Gemini V" the catamaran. Bundaberg Port Marina had kept a space for us and it was good to catch up with Lizzy and Peter on "Windana" who had been there throughout the two flood events which removed three sections of Black dock, the one they were tied up to, fortunately not the bit they were tied to. They had much to describe of the events and although somewhat battle scarred, they feel stronger and have made some very close friendships.
Walking around the boat yard looking at the salvaged wrecks was depressing and encouraged us to leave as soon as we could. The staff were sweet, they remembered us from our previous visit, it was sad to learn Sam lost everything in the floods, she says she and the family "are coming good". We visited the Shalom School markets on Sunday via the marina courtesy bus driven by Emily, who remembered Susie singing "the wheels on the bus go round and round" and on Monday rode to the IGA and the Post Office at Burnett Heads via the folding bikes.
Very early on Tuesday morning Pete threw our lines off as we set sail for Pancake Creek. The first leg, exiting the Port of Bundaberg is in a south easterly direction, straight in to the sun and the swell, we raised sail as we motored in the muddy water, more than half the shipping channel markers have been washed away or bent over in the floods, a bar appears to be forming in the big ship channel between markers 9-10 and markers 7-8, down to 5.2mts as normal dredged depth is 9.5mts. We peeled off the channel making a 165 degree turn heading towards Agnes Water, The Town of 1770 and Bustard Head, 65 miles away. By about 0900 we 10 knots of wind from directly astern, the engine was stopped and we were sailing once again. The wind continued to increase getting up over 20 knots. We had a fast run experimenting with different ways of poling out the genoa to get the best sail plan without too much crashing and bashing, we also used the new snatch block on the spinnaker pole to take the sheet to the pole. The gybe arrestors on the main worked well with sheets led aft to the cockpit with new jam cleats (they could have been the next size up, but they appear to do the job).
After rounding Bustard Head (going between the middle rocks and the outer rocks off the headland which saves a couple of miles but increases the stress levels a bit), we anchored at the outer anchorage of Pancake Creek. Having arrived earlier than planned due to our average speed being 6.7 knots for the day, the tide was too low for us to proceed safely to the inner anchorage until 6pm, so we stayed put and motored in at high tide on Wednesday morning, 27 March.
Old friends Barry and Pam on "Minx" was the only other boat we could see and we spent a couple of hours catching up with their news. They survived the flood and a tornado in the basin at Burnett Heads having had a stressful time with plenty of tales of watching boats and debris exiting the Burnett River. They reckoned there were 10-15 boats per day going down the river with the flood, with more than several coming to grief being driven by the wind onto Bargara Beach.
R&R at Pancake, no traffic, no noise, no fish or crabs - yet! Nick needs to get over his "Marina-itis". And no doubt we shall take the well-worn path up to the lighthouse which we have heard is now officially open to the public.