15 June 2019 | Start of a Long, Dark, Whitsunday Night
It's not often you hear a Mayday. Exciting. Worrying. And right when we were at a crucial point on Nashville. Would Deacon hit the bottle again? Would Will make public his dark secret and kill his burgeoning career before it got started? All this stress and then, bang, right at the crux……."MAYDAY".
"Mayday, Mayday. This is….. “ well, let's be kind and just call them, "Saucy Sue".
"Saucy Sue. This is Marine Rescue. What's your problem?"
Now, Deacon was just reaching up to the cupboard. What was in it? Would he crash off the wagon? Again?As for Will. He was all a dither. Who would he let down? What would he achieve?
And Saucy Sue ........ "We've broken free of our mooring and are adrift" "And its dark".
"Where are you Saucy Sue?"
.......the cupboard creaked slowly open. Deacon was tormented. Will picked up the microphone and stared blankly into the audience...... and Saucy Sue was adrift in the dark.
What a night. What tension.
Fortunately Deacon and Will could be paused. Saucy Sue's plight, while desperately needing a Pause button of their own, sounded like they were, well, in the shit.
The nights here when this all happened a few days ago were moonless, absolutely pitch black and a nasty reef is seldom far away. As moored boats passed by Saucy Sue's windows in the dark and with the sure and certain knowledge of a reef close by, Saucy Sue were beginning to panic.
Meanwhile Marine Rescue issued a Mayday Seelonce and started going through all their prescripted questions. "And Saucy Sue. How many people on board? Are you wearing life jackets? "What is your lat/long?", all the while we're screaming at the mic, "Start your flippin' engine". "Drop your anchor".
"We've hit something!" cried Saucy Sue.
"Where are you Saucy Sue?" cried Marine Rescue.
"I don't know. It's dark.” And en, to emphasise the depth of the problem, “We're novices”.
And then I cried in the sure and certain knowledge our insurance premiums were about to take another hike.
Anyway, all ended well. Marine Rescue hauled them off the reef and, having seen Saucy Sue being driven into the Marina by one of Queensland Yacht Charters staff, I think we can safely assume the crew were safe and putting their nerves back together in one of the many luxury resorts around the Whitsundays.
And Deacon? And Will?........ Best watch the series!
Crossing the Line
13 June 2019
Back in December 2011, after finishing the ARC and way too many complimentary, welcome rums, we thought it would be a good idea to attend Chris Doyle's lecture on cruising around the Caribbean Islands. As there was the chance of more free rum, I was onboard. And so, all eager eyed, we headed off to the session ready to absorb Chris's decades of experience cruising the area. "Don't touch the pink rum stuff 'cause it gives you the hangover from hell" would have been a good start, but that topic wasn't on his agenda. And neither was rum on the menu. Weather was on the agenda. And so, like all good cruisers, at the mention of this critical topic, we pricked our ears, sat upright, pencils poised over scraps of paper stolen from the bar and listened for what words of wisdom the Caribbean guru would impart.
"Its going to blow twenty to twenty five knots, from the south east.........until June". And that was it.
Well, out here in Whitsunday Land, it seems about the same. However, we have definitely crossed a couple of lines. The first was the Tropic of Capricorn. The second, we crossed just yesterday and is what I've named, "the Duvet Line.
The cold weather is now a distant memory, the duvet is stuffed in a locker and, man, it's bilin' hot.
The politicians here also crossed a line today. They approved a giant new coal mine just west of where we are now. Gotta keep them Chinese power plants running. The environmentalists lost the nearly ten year battle, but at least fifteen hundred families of the fifteen thousand who have applied, will have a new job in the house. No doubt the Pokie machine manufacturers are looking for new locations as I type.
Next stop Townsville.
Time Bandit - A Quick Look Around
09 June 2019
it took a while, but (Huw) here you go!
Swinging the Lead
07 June 2019
As we meander our way up the east coast of Australia we are continually reminded we are following in the wake of Captain, or more correctly, Lieutenant Cook (largely because he was born with coal dust in his mouth rather than a silver spoon).
Old Cookie more less rowed himself up this coast, or had his crew row while he sat in the stern sheets looking naval and the poor crew swung the lead line for hour after hour, going ashore to take the last/long of each and every headland. Cook pretty much sounded and charted every estuary, inlet and islet up this coastline, other than the one he hit of course. He was also smart enough to recognise that the reason for his compass reading incorrectly was the presence of iron ore. Poor lad could have made billions if he'd staked a mining claim.
Not long after him, old Joshua Slocum followed. He was apparently in a bit of a rush as he only stopped three times the whole length of the coast. Probably to see if he could shoot something.
And so, we have something of an understanding of the challenges they faced. We've been on the go for weeks and still only just passed half way. As Cook found out and as Slocum was blissfully unaware, this can be a treacherous coast. It's critical to watch the weather, the four to seven metre tides, depth below the keel when creeping up shallow creeks and dodging around the marked and unmarked reefs. (courtesy of C-map). Our lead line has been dunked more than once. It's also home from home. Today we sailed from Scawfell, past St Bees, Keswick, Carlisle, Wigton and Conway to reach the Whitsundays.
We really are like Cook and Slocum - just with access to Pinot Grigio and Facebook.
It's A Small World
30 May 2019
Or so the saying goes. However, as Anne will attest, it doesn't feel that small when you crawl off the Glasgow to Brisbane flight. But that was weeks ago. Or seems like weeks and now, we're thrashing our way out to a reef in the middle of the ocean. Lady Musgrave they call it. A ring of coral reef about thirty five miles off the Queensland coast and marking, I think, the start of the Great Barrier Reef. Or thereabouts.
As regards this small world thing, in, or is it on, the Gold Coast, Tony on Tactical Directions appeared over the horizon and we've been unable to shake him off since. We met Tony in Tahiti. And Tonga. And Sydney. He's persistent if nothing else. And annoyingly, still in front. (Until he stopped to A. catch a fish and B. catch his screecher which was making a valiant attempt to escape the confines of a furling system. What fun they must have had.)
Crewing for Tony are team Koza, Jim and Carola whom we met in Tasmania both last year and this. And to round off the motley crew, Bill and Gene appeared in Urangan where we were finally able to repay our debt of a couple of years ago when, ably assisted by Tony, we annihilated a large bottle of Bill's rum........by drinking one of mine.
Now, back to Lady Musgrave. There's a few of these onion rings in the Pacific and they seem to hold a strange attraction over many cruisers. Now, we've never really been tempted by these geographic features. I mean, when the tide is high, there's just sea, all around. And we see plenty of that. To enter these attractions, you have to wiggle your way in through a narrow, fibreglass crunching channel with hard limestone on either side to anchor in the middle of the ocean with only a slight ring of reef at low tide for shelter. However, Tony's got roast lamb and all the trimmings for dinner, so, ever suckers for a good nosh and a party, Lady Musgrave here we come. With some misgivings.
"You absolutely MUST go to Lady Musgrave. It's amazing. Crystal clear water over coral sand. Fantastic snorkelling."
"What about the sharks!" says I.
"No worries mate. Crocs ate 'em all".
The Red Line Does What?
23 May 2019
The Red Line Does What?
Thirty four days since squeezing seven point four, five metres of boat into a hoist sling just wide enough to avoid embarrassment and perhaps an insurance claim, we finally hauled up the anchor from the stinking mud.........and unknown metres of somebody's ancient mooring chain in a lovely crochet knot around the anchor.
I've always wondered if bolt cutters actually work. I'd tried giving the offending chain a really hard stare and probably the F word but that didn't help. But the bolt cutters did. I just hope the mooring owner doesn't come looking for it any time soon. So, anchor freed we headed off down river to the metropolis of Southport, some last minute shopping and a dinghy ride back to the boat in the pitch black, Luci light on Anne's head so as to comply with the regulations and dodging party boats.
Up at crack of dawn to start our trip north following in the wake of Captains Cook and Porteus. We headed out the seaway and across its notorious bar into a sloppy sea and no wind. Well, a few knots. Just enough to tempt us to foolishly turn off the engines and hoist the sails. "What's the red line do again?" It was only a month since we'd sailed but at our age, some of these critical things just slip away.
"What's that noise?" It was a new noise and these are always troubling. It was kind of spooky, sounding like a loose lipped cartoon character breathing out through his mouth, lips flapping. Or me contentedly snoozing after a few beers for that matter. It was inconsistent, which made it hard to track down but we finally did. One of my great ideas had been to fit what I'd call transom flaps to the scuppers under the bridge deck. At speed we've been suffering from a backwash of waves under the bridge deck splashing back up through the scuppers and into the cockpit. So, ever resourceful I got some plastic corrugated sheet, cut one layer so that it would fold at right angles and stuck it under the bridge deck so that the flap would allow the scuppers to drain and stop water splashing back up. Damn clever even if I say so myself.
Unfortunately it seems that as the waves get compressed between the hulls the difference in air pressure between above and below causes my new flaps to, well.....flap. Irritatingly.
Anyway, day two sees us en-route to Hervey Bay and it's apparently even more notorious bar.
"Wide Bay Bar has a reputation for being one of the most dangerous on the Queensland coast because of the length of the crossing (over 3nm), its distance offshore, the length of time it takes for our rescue crews to reach the bar (up to 1 hour depending on conditions) and the effects weather conditions have on the seas".
Australia. If the sharks, crocs, spiders and snakes don't get you...........there's always bar crossings.
The Gold Coast
16 May 2019 | From Cells To Superyachts
Way back, even before I were a lad, some of the convicts serving their sentence here in Australia really did have rather a grand time. Gruel and slops three times a day, gainfully employed, working in the sunshine rather than Midlands or London smog and learning a trade, albeit unpaid. Some had such a grand time they wrote home advising their siblings to go out and get caught thieving a scarf or maybe a loaf of bread and thus get themselves a free ticket to this land of plenty and promise.
In the time it took the judiciary and the politicians to realise what was going on, a goodly number had, Star Trek like, transported themselves to Sydney, Brisbane and Tasmania, free gratis, courtesy of HM Government.
Fast forward a couple of hundred years and the land of plenty is still coughing up. From recent experience there are many ways to make loads-a-money out here.
Forget banking, developing a wonder app or indeed mining. Get a job working on punters' boats, of which there is an inexhaustible supply, all needing super expensive chandlery, electronics and endless amounts of washing, polishing and antifoul.
"How much to antifoul our wee boat?", says I in all innocence. Fifteen grand!! I'd have fallen about laughing if they hadn't looked so serious. To do some touch ups on the gel coat over maybe all of six feet - five thou just for the tent they'd have to erect around the boat. How much to get the radar down from the mast, a highly technical job requiring the use of both a spanner and a screw driver? $650.
What a lark. What a gold mine. No wonder it's called the Gold Coast.
Great Train Journeys
07 May 2019
From what I see on the tele, yes, even tele way over here, that Michael Portillo chap, you know, the muppet with the posh voice and daft coloured jackets seems to have a grand time creeping around the UK on various train journeys, so I thought, "why not?" Missing only Joseph's technicolor dreamcoat I headed off to the local train station, courtesy of John and Sue who are looking after me while Anne's away on her granny pass. John and Sue were having a respite break and handing me off to my new guardians, Johann and Henriette (Scolomanzi) for the weekend as they in turn had to go and look after Travis. Awfully nice people.
Anyway, Australia has two great train journeys. The Indian Pacific which runs from Sydney to Perth, three thousand miles across the Nullafbor desert and the Ghan, which goes north/south across the continent from Adelaide to Darwin. It's named after the Afghan tribesmen who used to run the camel trains around the desert in the days before wheeled transport. The Afghans have gone but both the train and the camels remain. A few grand will get you a cabin, a window and, if you behave and have good table manners you can get access to the dining car at meal times, otherwise, you stay in your eeny weeny living space, where, if by any chance you brought along the family cat, it's quite safe if you're into swinging. Cats that is.
However, to do it in style you really need to chuck in another few grand which gets you into Agatha Christie territory with an Orient Express style lounge, bar and restaurant in which you can sit and chat to your fellow travellers, no doubt sporting safari suits and waxed moustaches. We thought about doing one of these trips but ended up stuffed in the back of the Land Cruiser instead.
And so, knowing of my plight, spinning around at anchor in the Coomera River, Johann and Henriette invited me up to their place, a couple of hours train ride north.
The trip didn't start too well as firstly, the stink boat occupying the dock I was meant to get overstayed his welcome and didn't leave until about an hour before my train. He finally went and I hauled up the anchor, which, after a week of dancing around with the tide every six hours was just one big knot of chain and steel.
Finally with the boat tied up, the chain knot undone, i was ready to go. Right up until my Uber app crashed. To the rescue, my carers John and Sue who whisked me to the airport for what should have been a quick two hour ride north.
But then, Australia has learnt a number of things from the Motherland. Bureaucracy, for one. Bank holiday weekend track maintenance the other.
The planned two hour trip, during which I should have been sitting, relaxed in my smoking jacket, turned into a seven hour marathon with the added enjoyment of a bus trip in the middle.
I suspect the Afghans might have been faster than Trans Link last weekend. But not faster than me on Johann's other Harley.