Symphony in Sea

23 November 2013
23 November 2013
14 November 2013 | Various
03 November 2013
21 October 2013 | Louisiades
20 October 2013 | Louisiades
19 October 2013 | Louisiades
18 October 2013 | Louisiades
17 October 2013 | Louisiades
16 October 2013 | Louisiades
14 October 2013 | Louisiades
13 October 2013 | Louisiades
12 October 2013 | Louisiades
11 October 2013 | Louisiades
10 October 2013 | Louisiades
09 October 2013 | Louisiades
08 October 2013 | Louisiades
07 October 2013 | Louisiades
06 October 2013 | Louisiades
05 October 2013 | Louisiades

The Final Leg

23 November 2013
Our mooring in McCarrs Creek is calm, a true haven. Sunlight glints off the ripples on the water. Whip birds are calling in the bush opposite, a sweet note above the drone of the cicadas. No, I’m not out in a rough sea lost in a dream of being home, we’re actually here.

I’d love to be up to date with the blog, so that I could finish on this note, but I’ve only just posted up the Lady Musgrave section, and perhaps I owe our readers details of our final push to get home. I’m going to try and keep it brief (not one of my strong points).

We left Lady Musgrave and did an overnighter to Mooloolaba, opting to go outside of Fraser Island rather than through the Great Sandy Straits, effectively avoiding the Wide Bay Bar and the potential hold up it might cause. We anchored up the river in Mooloolaba rather close to other boats, and watched the weather anxiously, worried a change might come through and cause us some grief. There was a severe thunderstorm forecast. I don’t think the Skipper got much sleep that night, keeping a close eye on the anchor track we were making on the plotter, but fortunately the storm didn’t arrive. We were away again by 0530 so that we could leave on high tide. Not much depth in the channel, and we wanted to make sure we weren’t going to get stuck there. It was a lumpy, rolly trip. Windy left Mooloolaba later in the morning after refueling, and we farewelled them over the radio when they headed in towards the Brisbane area.

We were in South Port, anchored outside Bum’s Bay (opposite Sea World) exactly twelve hours later. Severe thunderstorms were approaching so we had everything battened down and ready in nervous anticipation. We were spared the brunt of the storm, but Mooloolaba and Maroochydore were not so lucky, with fifty knot winds, and tennis ball sized hail that shred boat canvas and left a trail of destruction.

We were now ‘stuck’ in Southport, waiting for favourable sailing conditions. Not a bad place to get stuck, with lots to do, but we had arrived just as Schoolies Week was beginning, coinciding with the weekend. The waterway was at its usual chaotic best, and our anchorage was far from calm. On the day following our arrival, we dinghied over to the yacht club and left our dinghy next to Haven III at the marina. Deb picked us up and we went back to her place at Runaway Bay for a lovely BBQ afternoon-evening. A storm passed through while we were there, and we had everything crossed hoping our anchor wouldn’t drag, hoping there wouldn’t be any hail. When we got back that night we discovered the anchor had tripped, allowing us to drag about 20 metres, before resetting.

On Sunday we dinghied over to the park and walked to Australia Fair, picking up some shopping, enjoying lunch and letting Jamie have some fun in the park and on some racing car games near the cinemas.

Monday morning we had some visitors: Margaret and Robert from their yacht Run to Paradise. We’d met them through the guys on Chilli Heat, way back at Hayman Island on the trip north. They were also heading south, with a new mooring waiting for them in Pittwater, and I understand they will be joining the CCCA so we look forward to seeing more of them.

Deb picked me and took me shopping to the huge Robina mall where we had a lovely day. While I was off feeling human again, Graeme and Jamie did some washing at the marina and had lunch on Allusive. They came back to the boat and watched a huge thunderstorm come through. These were a daily occurrence while we were there. In the evening we enjoyed dinner at the yacht club with Peter from Haven III, John, Andy and Kelli from Allusive, and Andy’s daughter and her partner (who live locally). The food was sensational. We retired back to Allusive for a hot Milo and a night cap.

On Tuesday we took Jamie to Sea World for the day. Jamie loved the monorail, the sky rail, racing cars, water play, and the dolphin show. He was desperate to go on a jet-ski roller coaster, but lost his nerve on both the first and second attempt. Given a little more time, I think he would have found the courage. Maybe next time! After Sea World we went round to the seafood co-op. A couple of guys on a trawler gave us some crabs for free. They were still very much alive! – well, until I dropped them into a pot of boiling water. Peter came over for a drink on Symphony, and we stayed up late doing the 1000-piece lighthouse puzzle Alison gave me for my birthday. Something about puzzles, once you start you can’t stop. They’re addictive!

The weather window kept slipping. We expected to be able to leave on Wednesday but after consultation with the other skippers, it looked like there was now a window on Thursday, albeit a small one. We spent Wednesday preparing the boat for departure and had some time at the park and back at Australia Fair. Allusive came out of the yacht club and joined us and Haven III, all itching to leave. Peter cooked spaghetti bolognaise for us, with peaches and custard for dessert.

Waking up Thursday morning, we soon learned that Allusive had departed at midnight for the run south, and were making good time in reasonable conditions. By 0845 we were off too, and heading out the seaway. Haven III left a few hours later.

Not much to report about the trip except that we were thrilled to find the elusive East Australian Current (dude), which had us hooting along at 10 knots, with a peek speed of 11.2!

There was some thought of going into Coffs Harbour, but we wanted to make the most of the weather conditions while they were good. We’d also been told boats were being turned away due to the marina being full, (and for some reason we’re a little averse when it comes to marinas at the moment) so we set our sights on Port Stephens. We heard Allusive had gone in there in the early evening to have a rest, but on approach we changed our minds about going in. We wouldn’t get there until 0300, and with nasty weather moving up the coast from the south, we would really need to be underway again at first light, so there wasn’t much point. We continued on, finally arriving at the heads of Broken Bay around lunch time, with thunderstorms accompanying us, a very dark sky, forty knots of wind and white caps all around. Pittwater was much calmer, to our great relief – strangely, the racing boats were sitting becalmed, their spinnakers like deflated balloons.

We've since learned Allusive (sailed down by John and Andy) made it to the Harbour, and we'll be catching up with them on Tuesday for a slap-up lunch at a waterfront restaurant. Di is flying up from Tassie and Kelli down from the Gold Coast, and we'll be celebrating birthdays, and other successes. Last we heard, Haven III was anchored in Towlers Bay, just around the corner from us, and heading to the Harbour today.

We picked up our own mooring at 1445 yesterday afternoon where we received a rousing welcome home from Andrew and Lynne (Mischief) into the early hours of the morning!

So we’re back, but not off the boat yet. We're not really ready to go home just yet, so we'll stretch it out a few more days since we're a week early.

What a wonderful adventure we’ve had. We’ve made some great friends and come away with a lot of fabulous memories. And we’ve sailed nearly 5000 miles. I really must post up some of our Louisiade photos once we’ve sorted through them. Thank you to anyone who’s read the blog, and if you’ve come this far, an extra special thank you for finishing this journey with us.

Until next time, safe sailing and fair winds.
Sue, Graeme and Jamie
SV Symphony.

Fitzroy Reef & Lady Musgrave

23 November 2013
From Great Keppel Island we sailed to Hummocky Island with relative ease, and anchored off the back of the island to get protection from the light north east winds. We had a leisurely dinner and a couple of hours of rest until 2200, at which time we raised the anchor again, set the sails, and set a course for Fitzroy Reef. Given our deliberately late start and the calm conditions, it was an easy ‘overnighter’, which had us arriving at the Reef at 0900 in clear, sunny conditions, just the right time for a good visual of the coral and the tricky entry.

Fitzroy Reef is a big lagoon, completely surrounded by coral, all but for a narrow channel entrance. There’s no island but you can see the reef (and anchored boats) from a reasonable distance. We were surprised at how narrow the channel was, but negotiated its twists and turns (there are some fixed and some floating markers) with no trouble, and found the lagoon beyond to be flat with plenty of anchoring room and very few problematic ‘bommies’. There were three boats when we arrived and six by the end of the day.

We had a wonderful day snorkelling over the coral, swimming and exploring the lagoon. We trialled Graeme’s homemade hookah for diving, and although I was dubious, it turned out to work pretty well. Dive operators used to frequent the reef, but no longer, possibly due to distance and fuel costs, so we few cruising boats had the place to ourselves. There’s something amazing about being in the middle of a flat lake-like lagoon with the white boom of waves breaking on the reef all around, and no land anywhere in sight. We passed a calm, uneventful night and left by 0900 the next morning. There was an interesting current affecting the channel, causing some stand-up waves. The Skipper had to ‘crab walk’ the boat sideways a bit to negotiate the twists and turns, and then we noticed there was a bommie right in the middle of the final floating markers. Turns out they ‘move’ with strong currents, so we had to go around a bommie that wasn’t supposed to be there.

We thought it was a twenty mile trip to Lady Musgrave, but it turned out to be a little longer, and only saw us arriving at the Island at around 1300 hours. The entrance to Lady Musgrave is much more straight-forward than Fitzroy Reef, and the island is a popular place for campers and tourist boats. There were about 14 boats (the majority catamarans) already anchored when we arrived, and more came in during the day.

Wind of Change had arrived earlier that morning and we anchored up near them. Brett and his newly acquired crew member, Jen, came over later for a drink. We found out Avante had been leaving as Windy arrived. Interestingly, of the 19 boats on the rally, we have kept in regular touch with quite a number, and as I write this, Windy, Haven III, Avante, Southern Belle and now Allusive are all making their way south. Windy and Avante are nearly ‘home’, while Haven III and Southern Belle are also bound for Sydney. Allusive, with Andy and Kelli from Quintessa aboard as crew helping John, is heading for Tassie.

After anchoring, we went for a swim and snorkel in the coral garden, where Graeme and I both had lasting turtle encounters. The sealife here are very familiar with people (or perhaps are fed?) so they approach you and almost allow you to touch them. I found myself swimming in a shimmering cloud of black and pearl-white fish. Just wonderful!

After our snorkel, we went ashore and repeated the walk we’d done in 2007. Lady Musgrave is a coral island with an abundance of nesting white-capped noddy terns. These birds build their nests out of the leaves of the pisonia trees and roost by the thousands. They say it’s lucky to get pooped on by a bird. Well, wasn’t I the ‘lucky’ one that day, scoring three direct hits as we walked along the track overhung with nest-laden branches. Graeme only scored one, and they missed Jamie altogether! Looking ahead, it sometimes appeared to be raining under the trees! Fortunately I was able to plunge into the water at the end of the walk, and wash the stuff out of my hair. Ewww. I’m throwing away my four-leaf clover. And my lucky rock.

Simply Sailing South

14 November 2013 | Various

And finally another blog… I guess I haven’t written as I want to save my readers from the boredom and tedium of simply sailing south. Perhaps it isn’t that bad. Let’s see what I can salvage of interest, from the days gone by that seem to blur together...

My last blog had us at Cid Harbour for our last night in the Whitsunday’s proper, and we left at 0600 and made our way past Hamilton Island (and its strong currents/standing up waves) and headed south. Our next stop was Scawfell Island, but the conditions weren’t conducive to getting that far, so we ended up at Brampton Island. It was only for the night so we didn’t go ashore. Another island where the resort has closed down, leaving an eerie ghost town atmosphere.

We raised anchor at 0640 next morning and headed for Curlew Island, arriving at 1545 after an uneventful day, except for observing (and smelling) the orange slick on the water. We have believed at different times that this was either algae or coral spawn, but the sheer volume of this sludge over mile after mile eventually convinced us it had to be some sort of algae. This has since been confirmed. Apparently the water is too warm at the moment and the algae, which varies in colour from saffron through orange to brown to a marble green, is spreading out of control. Some photos we’ve posted on facebook show us making a track through the soupy scum. And the smell starts to get to you after a while.

Entry to the anchorage at Curlew Island was through a narrow channel between a rocky headland and an extensive sandbank. We used our new visual navigation skills to get in safely, with the Skipper battling against a strong current that wanted to sweep us into the sandbank. We spent a bit of time anchoring, knowing the weather was going to keep us holed up for a few days. It was rolly and current-cursed, but the holding was good and it was protected… from the direction the wind was supposed to blow from. It persisted in blowing from the east when it was supposed to be south east. There was another boat, a yellow catamaran, already anchored. We met the owners, a charming couple called Pat and Margaret (and their dog Boo), on the beach. The boat, Mara, is a Crowther 35’ foot cat extended to 37’, and like a stretched out version of Echo II, our old boat (even the same original colour). Of course, we ended up there (twice) for drinks over the next couple of days, finding Pat and Margaret great company and very welcoming hosts. The boat had a very familiar, comfortable feel and we could see the appeal it held for them. Previous owners had circumnavigated the world. Mara is making her way south to her home port of Tin Can Bay, albeit at a slightly more relaxed pace!
When weather just allowed, we left Curlew and jounced our way through restless (‘Don’t tell me their calming!’) seas to Hunter Island. It was a long day covering many more miles than the crow would have flown. I had to think of Lee on Cooinda and her five tack rule. How I wish I could have enforced that! We tacked all bloody day… Hunter Island was a welcome sight and the anchorage (‘N’ in the Curtis Coast book) as flat and sensational, the only truly roll-free anchorage we’ve had on a Qld island. The island was once used for cattle grazing, but little sign of that these days other than a rusting tin shed surrounded by long grass, and a mostly illegible Keep Out sign. A good beach for combing, too, with ours the first footprints for the day. There’s something quite special about stepping onto a ‘virgin’ beach.

We almost didn’t leave Hunter Island, on discovering we were only anchored in 2.5m of water the next morning – and of course the anchor was in shallower water than that. We’re pretty sure we draw 2.2m, so there was a moment there of not so carefully disguised panic. We all concentrated on being as light as a feather (hard to do when you’ve been living on a starchy carbohydrate diet for the last few months) as we slowly pulled up the anchor. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the anchor came up and we hadn’t touched the bottom. Then we got the hell out of there before we did.

From Hunter Island we intended to go to Island Head Creek, a delightful, sheltered anchorage with dugongs, turtles, dolphins, crocodiles – all the natural attractions in an unspoilt, uninhabited area. We had spent a lovely time here in 2007 and were looking forward to returning. From a long way off we could see a hazy horizon which soon resolved itself into a huge white plume of smoke, coming from the general vicinity of Island Head Creek. I called up Coast Guard Thirsty Sound:

‘Ah, we’re a few miles north and hoping to enter Island Head Creek. Just calling to find out if there are any military exercises or major bushfires in the area we should know about?’

‘Thank you for your call. Island Head Creek is currently unavailable.’

So much for rekindling our memories. We headed further down the coast (which made for a very long day at sea) interested to see the fire front coming over the mountain in a long smoky line. A little later a 'Securite' announcement on the radio reported military exercises in the area – flare testing – meaning the area would be closed for a few days. Perhaps the guys were a little enthusiastic with their flare testing? We sailed past Pearl Bay and into Port Clinton, laying the anchor just as the sun set in the rich shades of crimson, red and orange that you only get with smoke in the air.

We were out of Port Clinton by 0545. (I know, some of you can’t BELIEVE the hours I’m keeping, but I must point out they don’t have Daylight Savings up here, so it was NSW time 0645 … which is still early for me.) The sea was glassy with a slight swell, and 5 knots of wind, so we motored for the morning with a current giving us an average speed of 7.5 knots all the way to Rosslyn Bay – Keppel Bay Marina. Symphony entered the marina at 1205 in brilliant conditions and I still managed to &%*& up the pen entry by not catching the first cleat with the line on the mid cleat on my first attempt and thereby sending us hurtling out of control towards the boat in the pen next to us. (Any attempt to use reverse sends us madly prop-walking sideways to port.) I managed to get the line on the cleat eventually (with a heroic throw, I’d just like to point out) but not before tempers were lost. Fortunately, no actual physical damage done. We didn’t touch anything. My pride was in tatters, though. A woman along the way came to our rescue and took a bow line and helped us get some control. I don’t know. Ropes and I just don’t get along. I don’t think we’ll be going to any more marinas. Ever again.

Anyway!! Jamie was thrilled to be in a marina once again, and our first stop was the laundry – or should I say – laundries. Before we even got there, Jamie had reported that Rosslyn Bay had not one but two laundries, both with two washing machines and two dryers. He remembered this from 2007. I didn’t even remember there had been two laundries, let alone the configuration. He was right. Of course. We got three loads of washing done and were lucky enough to get the courtesy car from 3-5pm, so raced into the shops to do a HUGE provisioning run. I was stocking up just in case. (Did I mention I am banned from marinas?) Don’t want to run out of chocolate, coffee or nice cheese in the foreseeable future.

The marina restaurant was fully booked, being a Saturday, so we walked across the point to a place called Beaches Bistro. Thinking it was going to be a bistro. You know, where you line up and order your meal and get a beeper for when it’s ready? Nope. Beaches Bistro is a restaurant. White table cloths and high ceilings and palm trees and all. Nice place! Also booked out. So they made us a pizza to take away, and we ate it at the picnic tables at the marina, close to the sign which warned patrons to beware the venomous snake recently frequenting the area.

Washing done, shopping and refuelling done, nothing to do but leave.
After a little sleep in, and fond goodbyes to the laundries, we headed out of the marina – no problems there. That’s always pretty problem free. A few miles later we made our way through algae soup to the pristine shores of Great Keppel Island. We anchored with dozens of other weekenders and headed to shore in the dinghy, to spend a delightful couple of hours wandering around the beach and foreshore. The resort is closed – has been for a number of years. A bit sad looking but there are lots of things happening at the northern end of the island, with a new bistro (a real one, this time) a pizza place, gift shops and some water sports hire places. We had ice creams and chocolate brownies and I got a stubby cooler to replace the Great Keppel one I lost in the Louisiades, before heading back along the gorgeous white beach to have a swim. All too soon it was time to leave. Just when we were really enjoying it. It was almost like a holiday!

From Great Keppel we sailed 25-odd miles to Hummocky Island, somewhere we stayed on the way up, but with the wind blowing from the NE we are anchored on the southern side. Some time later this evening we are going to up anchor and sail down to Fitzroy Reef, where we hope to spend the day tomorrow, if conditions remain good and there’s room to anchor in the lagoon. Plan B is Lady Musgrave. Life is tough.

Back in Oz

03 November 2013
For those of you who haven't seen facebook or heard from us personally, we're back in Australia, safe and sound, although as I write this at anchor, the wind is howling in the rigging, madly flapping any loose piece of canvas and flinging us this way and that. We are anchored in 3 metres with at least 30 metres of chain out - possibly closer to 40 metres, so we shouldn't move, but stranger things have happened...

The Louisiades did not seem to want us to leave. The first problem we struck, on Tuesday morning, 22 October, was getting the anchor up in Dumaga Bay. We'd managed to get it wrapped around a bommie, but the water was murky and it took a while to work out what was going on. After 'working it' with much manoeuvring at the wheel and much fiddling about at the pointy end, we managed to get the anchor unwound and finally up. This was the one and only time we had a major problem getting the anchor up, and of course it had to happen in crocodile infested waters - who wants to dive on the anchor?? In the distance, as we turned the boat towards the reef and began motoring out, we could see trade canoes frantically paddling out, perhaps to say goodbye or perhaps hoping for one last trade. Andy, with greater speed and manoeuvrability, turned back and drove by the trade boats. One of them turned out to be Raymond (the elder) from the village, coming out with his twin boys to say goodbye.

It was intermittently overcast and rainy, which made visibility poor and unpredictable. I stood on deck keeping an eye out for reef as we made our way slowly out Johnston Passage. The seas outside were confused and rough - the roughest seas we've seen in this boat, compounded by squalls every twenty minutes for at least the first day and a half. Both Graeme and I felt unwell that first day. Was it anxiety? Something we ate? Was it the rainwater? Or was it actually seasickness? Kind of hard to tell, but for the first time EVER, my Stugeron tablets didn't work. The squalls finally abated but the seas stayed busy and bouncy.

The sea started calming down in the afternoon of the second day. The morning sched brought the news that a low pressure system was building near Fiji, with 40 knot winds, and it was heading our way, so we decided this was a good time to change course and head for Cairns instead of Townsville. We dropped out some reefs and got some more canvas up, and were pleased to reach a more comfortable motion and speed of 8 knots. The seas were still big. The next morning we found out the low pressure system had dissipated and was no longer being monitored as a cyclone threat, so we reset our heading for Townsville.

By this time the seas had abated and we found ourselves with 'champagne' sailing conditions: beautiful flat sapphire seas and clear skies. We were able to sit at the cockpit table for meals and potter about doing whatever we fancied. A highlight was sitting on the back transom, legs dangling in the water, pouring buckets of sea water over ourselves to cool off. Graeme reckons he could have sailed indefinitely in those conditions, but I just wanted to make landfall.

We crossed the Great Barrier Reef via Palm Passage (but have since heard Magnetic Passage is more direct) with no incident. Navigation was easy because the charts are all accurate! No visual navigation required, so for the added challenge we did it at night. Once through the smooth pass, the seas chopped up and we found ourselves with a beam-on swell as we approached Magnetic Island. This lovely little swell made getting the main down and jib furled an interesting exercise, but we managed, and finally dropped anchor in Horseshoe Bay at 4am, Saturday 26 October. We had travelled 602 miles.

The authorities had agreed to let us wait until Monday morning before our Customs and Quarantine clearance - thus avoiding the Quarantine weekend (out-of-ours) rate, which we believe is double the office hours rate of $330. This waiting had its positives and negatives. It gave us a chance to get the boat all cleaned up, rest after passage, and use as much of our fresh fruit, veg and meat before Quarantine could take it all away. I made an orange cake (great recipe off the internet) using the last of the Louisiade eggs and oranges, and we tried making some ginger beer with our over-abundance of ginger root. We had steak and roast vegetables on our last night and were only left with a few meat products and a bag of rather sad looking fruit and vegetables to hand over to Quarantine. On the other hand, it meant we couldn't get off the boat and go to shore, and we couldn't even swim off the boat as the water was murky and the area known for tiger sharks. So we waited... and waited.

During our 'confinement', another boat - a Catalina 44 called Water Music, also returning from the Louisiades - came into Horseshoe Bay with their yellow flag flying, so we were able to suffer in company. In hindsight, it might have been better to just pay the extra $330 and be done with it, get into Townsville, get stocked up and get south! Hindsight is a lovely thing.

Monday morning finally came, so we followed Water Music out of the bay and around to Breakwater Marina. (Customs and AQIS checks were supposed to happen at the Yacht Club, but we made arrangements to do it at Breakwater. Turns out this wasn't totally acceptable but we got away with it this time.) The Quarantine guys (now part of the newly reorganised Department of Agriculture) were friendly but very thorough. They went through the boat with a torch and a fine-tooth comb. They were mainly checking for bugs, like termites, so checked all internal wood and peered into flour and rice containers. All our carvings and pandanus baskets were scrutinised (all passed, even though they contained something called book lice, which are tiny very common bugs that eat mould). One of the guys was in training so I think the lead guy had to stick to the rules, and wouldn't even let us keep some cryovac meat and some cheeses and pickled ginger because the origin was unclear. So keep this in mind: If you want to bring back meat or dairy or packaged stuff (frozen or otherwise), it must have an Australian Made or Australian imported or manufactured address on it. All our dry packaged foods, UHT milk and brand name or labelled items were fine. Talking later, Susie and Nic from Water Music had frozen curries and pasta sauces taken off them too. Our biggest problem (potentially) was that they were concerned our boat had been built in the States, which is high risk for termites. Come on! It was built 16 years ago, and no doubt checked on entry into Aus. Any termites on this boat would be Australian born and bred. They came *this* close to putting us in the high risk category, which would have meant a more comprehensive check and possible fumigation, all at our cost, of course.

Formalities finally complete, we BURST off the boat for the first time in 6 days. First stop, the laundry!!! Well, Jamie had been very patient too... Next stop, a walk along The Strand and a play in the water park, where Jamie enjoyed standing under the giant bucket, waiting for the moment it would overturn and spill out a thunderous white gush. We had our ice cream and chippies fix at McDonalds (I know, we're TERRIBLE) and picked up some supplies from the Bi-Lo. That evening, after luxuriously long showers, we had dinner at the local Steakhouse and Jamie enjoyed playing a Shrek pinball game.

Tuesday 29 October was washing day. Washing and more washing. We had all the machines going at once! How could three people generate so much washing??? I think there was only one person absolutely THRILLED about spending the day in the laundry, and it wasn't ME.

Graeme walked across the bridge to a chandlery to pick up a new bow roller, and both the boys had their hair cut by Annie at the Marina. We caught up with Robbie from Eclipse then had Happy Hour on our boat with Robbie and Nic and Susie off Water Music. They had met each other in Robinson Anchorage in the Louisiades. We found out Desire had made it to the Yacht Club, and Bad Habits was over there as well. Nic and Susie headed off to dinner over there, while Robbie walked down The Strand with us to Bountiful Thai for a very nice meal.

Wednesday 30 October - Up around 0530, then casting off the lines just after 0600. Graeme thinks they use a special glue in marinas, to stop you being able to leave easily. We had a very pleasant day and night sail from Townsville down past the three Capes (Cleveland, Bowling Green and Upstart), then outside Gloucester Island and into the Whitsunday's as the sun rose. With the wind blowing from the north, we decided to make for Turtle Bay, one of the anchorages on the southern side of Whitsunday Island that we haven't visited much. Not far from the anchorage we ran into Haven III coming the other way. (Haven III, I have mentioned earlier, had to leave the Rally unexpectedly and Peter sailed the boat back from the Louisiades single-handedly.) As we passed each other, Peter called out that they were catching up with Windy in Cid Harbour that afternoon. Sounded like a good idea, so we did a U-ee and followed them.

Cid Harbour was a little on the murky side, but we swam off the boat anyway, and enjoyed zooming around in the dinghy to the various beaches and watching turtles. Lots of turtles around here! Always, they remind us of naked sunbathers suddenly being discovered. As soon as they see us watching them they duck away into the depths as if they're embarrassed.

It was nice to catch up with Peter from Haven III and Brett from Windy. Brett is currently on the boat by himself, but his twin, Daron, is flying in to Hamilton Island on Sunday. He was happy to join us for a 'drunken lamb' roast with the trimmings. Halloween was a bit of a non-event, except for the adults from one of the charter boats dressing up as pirates and dinghying around trick-or-treating. I'm not sure they know the rules: they were handing out lollies instead of collecting them!

Friday we decided we should do something: either head over to Airlie for a poke around if the weather was from the south, or if the wind was more favourable, we'd try heading south ourselves. (It was kind of hard to tell what the wind was doing from protected Cid Harbour.) Well, the wind wasn't conducive to heading south, so we anchored in Muddy Bay (a long way out) and went ashore, leaving the dinghy at the Whitsunday Yacht Club floating pontoon, where they seem to have relaxed the membership rules a little, letting us leave the dinghy there without demanding we become temporary members. Airlie hasn't changed much since our last visit: back-packers, fast food joints, souvenir shops, pubs and night clubs predominate. There's a new marina across a patch of reclaimed land near the Yacht Club (although not many boats) and there used to be a service station at the northern end of the strip, but that's gone so I'm not sure you can get fuel anywhere local unless you're prepared to pay top dollar at the marinas. Did a little more provisioning at the local supermarket, which had a reasonable range if a little pricey. We've decided we're going to try and by-pass Mackay, so need supplies for maybe two weeks, and we didn't buy much in Townsville. Early dinner in town, then back to the boat with our goodies. I made some Rocky Road and we passed the evening listening to the wind howling in the rigging and sending the boat skirling sideways. (Refer first paragraph.) Graeme got up umpteen times in the night to adjust the anchor, as the anchor chain and snubber rope had entwined themselves and were grinding together, but we didn't budge, even though Muddy Bay is notorious for poor holding. And the snubber rope has survived.

This morning, Saturday 2 November, we battled the wind and waves to dinghy ashore to visit the beachside markets. It was nice to wander amongst the stalls, listening to live music and sip on a freshly brewed coffee. We picked up strawberries, honey, apples and apple-ginger juice. The boys had tubs of sorbet and I stole Graeme's wallet long enough to buy a couple of beach dresses.

Back to the boat, and I made ready while Graeme went back for water. The plan was to 'head south' with our goal Shaw Island, about 22 miles away. The anchor brought up half Muddy Bay in a big muddy, shelly ball (hope it wasn't the plug!) and it took Graeme ages to wash/knock it all off. Add to that the wind wasn't behaving, and we had two knots of current against us, and we were never going to make it by dark even to our Plan B of Lindeman Island, so we've ended up back in Cid Harbour, and we'll head off at first light. There's a small weather window of LIGHT southerlies for the next couple of days, before the wind shifts up a gear and becomes 25+ knots from the south. I'm hoping we'll be tucked in somewhere nice and protected by the time THAT happens.

Preparation for departure

21 October 2013 | Louisiades
Boat preparation day. With departure set for 'tomorrow', we had an extensive list of things to do before we would be ready to leave. Windows had to be taped, diesel tanks filled, dinghy deflated and packed away, engine checked, rig checked, inner forestay rigged again, everything outside strapped down, inside stuff stowed and surfaces cleared, passage food prepared (incorporating as much fresh stuff as possible) bread baked, cupboards reorganised for easy passage access, route prepared, batteries charged, sheets changed, Customs alerted... the list goes on.

Taking a break from preparation, we went ashore to visit the school with our remaining bags of school supplies. St Ann's is quite a large and developed school with almost 200 students, but barely staffed with only 4 teachers! Classes of at least 30 children each were in full swing when we arrived, although some of those were working independently with the teachers having to divide their time between classrooms. We met the head teacher, Matilda, and Martin, the school chaplain. They seemed pleased with our interest in the school, and our donations. Martin showed us the church too, which was the most modern we've seen, built on a concrete slab and with paintings hung all around the walls depicting the Passion of the Christ.

During the children's lunch break, Andy and Kelli were mobbed when they started giving out lollies and balloons. They almost needed helicopter extraction!
Soon, it was back to the boat to complete our passage preparations. Andy cooked a butterflied lamb roast in his barbeque for dinner, which we had with baked veggies, none of us able to face fish or lobster (or able to think of any new and exciting ways to prepare them). It was our last dinner in the Louisiades, as the sun set in shades of orange and lemon, and we contemplated a return, after all this, to normal life.

Next stop: Australia.

Dumaga Bay

20 October 2013 | Louisiades
Happy Birthday Ricki!!!

We sailed the next leg down Sudest Island to reach Dumaga Bay, leaving the anchorage by 0730. Jamie was invited to spend the passage on Quintessa, and jumped at the opportunity, with barely a backward glance as Andy swept him away by dinghy. Graeme and I hardly knew what to do with ourselves, so made a couple of phone calls, including one to Ricki to wish her a happy birthday, and decided to try fishing again. Wouldn't you know it, we caught fish Number 2!! Another decent-sized Spanish mackerel! I claim some of the landing rights although I let Graeme deal with the icky bit.

We had an easy picturesque passage of about 20+ miles along the south-western end of Sudest, and then entered Dumaga Bay with visual navigation. This has usually meant me standing in front of the mast, scanning the waters for bommies, and giving (frantic?) hand signals back to the skipper if a change of course is necessary. We were fortunate the threatening weather held off and we were able to see the reefs and bommies quite clearly. Dumaga is virtually opposite Johnston Pass, making it an ideal jumping off point. The bay is sizeable, with villages all around, so we anchored pretty much smack bang in the middle in about 8 metres. Jamie was quite pleased to see Graeme appear in the dinghy, and launched himself as Graeme came alongside. At some point during the day he had begun to think we had abandoned him! (It was only a passing thought, really!)

Quintessa had arrived some time before us, and already had traders aboard when we anchored. It wasn't long before canoes started appearing from all directions, and we were inundated again. We had a slick talking young fellow called Raymond turn up in his threadbare T-shirt. Just to clarify, when I say threadbare, I mean that his shirt was full of holes and the seams had all separated, so he was left with a few dirty yellow strips of fabric hanging off a frayed neckline. His shorts weren't much better. This is by no means an unusual sight anywhere in the Louisiades. He boarded without asking (which seems annoyingly typical around here), sweet talked me out of a hand mirror, some spray deodorant and a few other things before we sent him on his way. He promised some greens, mangoes, bananas and coconuts in return. The locals around here don't have much to trade; just fresh produce, which is fine unless you're about to return to a country where Quarantine doesn't allow you to bring anything fresh across the border. We traded our remaining clothes, soap and fishing gear for eggs, tiny tomatoes, greens (the locals call it cabbage but the leaves have a nutty vine leaf taste and are shaped like, well, tree leaves...), bananas, passionfruit and pineapple. Hoping we can eat it all before the authorities board us in Australia. It would be such a shame to have to toss it overboard!

A little later, between rain squalls, we went to shore. We have been spoilt with sandy beaches (and villages built on the sand) at almost every anchorage bar Misima, but here, on Sudest Island in this bay we experienced a different environment. The mangroves break to reveal a reddish muddy beach, with slabs of silvery-green (slate?) rock. The village we visited is built on the same reddish clay, and the recent rains had turned the pathways to sludge. As usual, we were met by hoards of local children, running along the shoreline. Kelli and Andy arrived before us and were already visiting one of the local 'elders' - another Raymond. He claimed he wasn't the boss but he had a big house and was well educated, with a certificate on the wall proudly displaying his four years' training to work for the Catholic Church. We stood in the shelter of his eaves, in the mud, surrounded by his family and other villagers, handing out balloons, balls, lollies and other gifts. Later, we were taken for a tour. Perhaps the most amazing thing to see were pieces of stainless steel framework, a boat's stern seat and other yacht items that had been incorporated into the village 'decor'. We learned that in recent years two yachts had come to grief on the nearby reef, and the villagers had received permission to salvage. Mental note: Do not let Symphony end up as village decoration. Hmm. Perhaps our esteemed rally leader knew a thing or two when he advised against leaving via Johnston Pass??

Back at Quintessa for a drink, we were once again descended upon by locals wanting to trade, or just wanting 'help please'. Young Raymond turned up with the promised fruit, although the mangoes were obviously windfalls and the coconut had already been drunk! To make matters worse, it was getting dark and his canoe was sinking. Graeme ended up having to take him back a considerable distance to shore in the dinghy, with the canoe slung across the dinghy bow. He was less than impressed, and somewhat surprised when Raymond put his order in for more gifts.

I cooked good Aussie steak for all of us, with creamy mashed potato and the local greens.
Vessel Name: Symphony
Vessel Make/Model: Catalina 42 MkII
Hailing Port: Pittwater, Sydney
Crew: Graeme, Sue & Jamie Baxter
Symphony's Photos - Main
Some shots of our trip so far.
43 Photos
Created 29 August 2013


Who: Graeme, Sue & Jamie Baxter
Port: Pittwater, Sydney