Today we were greeted with plenty of sandflies which attacked us as soon as the sun rose. So we were desperate to leave. But as we waiting until we had enough information from the various marinas and BOM so that we could decide what to do, the phone rang and it was the Tin Can Bay Marina. After a bit of discussion we were able to pick up the last berth for a cat at the marina. This meant our fate was sealed.
We looked at the weather and the more we looked the more we could see that we were not going to make Mooloolabah, although the wide bay bar looked pretty good. So after the availability of the marina berth, it was decided to go to Tin Can Bay and hold up there until the upcoming bad weather pasts. It looks like it is going to take over a week before we are in a position to move south again.
So we set off towards Tin Can Bay, and it was very calm. We got a surprise when we pulled the anchor up. Well actually two surprises. The first was that the anchor winch worked flawlessly… The second was we pulled up a folding chair wrapped around the chain. We tried to salvage it and dispose of it appropriately, but we dropped it, so it is there for somebody else at a later date. We had to motor for the rest of the Sandy Straights, but finally when we got into the last hour, the wind came up and in a good direction and we had an excellent sail right to Tin Can Bay. Very fitting for our last day.
So why is it our last day, well we have decided that we should leave the boat here to sort out a number of issues at home and then come back in a week or so and complete the last bit of the journey then. Tomorrow we have a couple of seats booked on the bus and we will get home tomorrow night. So this is our last blog for the trip, at least for now.
It was actually a really sad day for me. From my perspective, it has been a fantastic trip. Hilary found it a bit tougher. It is something I wanted to do since I was first given a book by Alan Lucas, about Cruising the Qld Coast when I was probably 12 years old. It is a fascinating and beautiful place indeed, but it is not that forgiving and sometimes tough and rough going. We built the boat to do this trip and today it was an understanding that we had completed that journey. I wished that Ross was here to share it with us, and indeed I really missed him on this trip, but it just wasn’t to be. I am thankful that at least Hilary and I managed to do it. So we had a fitting sail to end the journey for now and although the days sail has ended, we still managed to meet some nice people that we have been sailing beside for the last 3 days. Everybody is on their own journey, I suppose, and sometimes our paths run in parallel for a bit.
I took a bunch of not very relevant photos, so here they are. I will probably do a few more for the last part of the journey, but it will be a week or so.
Today we were to navigate the Great Sandy Straights and set ourselves up for a crossing of the Wide Bay Bar tomorrow. Well the weather is not playing nice to us and it looks like we won’t be able to cross the bar and get to somewhere safe before a strong NW wind then and new SE strong wind appears. So today after a fair bit of analysis of different weather patterns and different options we decide to just go to Gary’s anchorage.
So weather wise today it somewhere between dead flat calm and dead flat calm with a breath of a breeze. We got up around 0500 and were on our way by 0515. The anchor came up no problems, so I assume I have fixed that problem. If it doesn’t work in the future I will assume it is a new unforeseen problem; which I might add there are many.
We timed our departure so that we did not have to appease the god of current, because we knew what the tides were and where they meet in the middle of the travel we had to undertake. So we planned it so that at the high tide were were at the point where the tides meet, so we therefore always had the tide with us. If you don’t understand it, then just assume the god of tides was working with us for a change.
But the god of wind was also asleep (waiting for his big day on Tuesday, I suspect) and we had virtually none, but what we did have allowed us to sail most of the way. However, when there was no wind then that diesel stuff sure becomes useful.
Anyway, when the new forecast came in at around 1000, it was clear that the situation with regards to the weather over the next week was getting worse. So we decided that we would not cross the bar this week, but would wait it out. Our first option was to go to Gary’s anchorage. We feared that that there would be hordes of boats here, but there is not, at least today. I assume they are going to try to make their way down the coast before the big winds come.
Well we anchored in Gary’s with nobody else to start with, but a couple of other boats arrived later. I did some maintenance on the motors as some of the mounts were a little loose. I had an issue with the salt water cooling system on the motors, most likely because the pump is getting a little old. But after manually priming them, which required plenty of sucking on a hose and the inevitable mouth full of salt water, we got it going again. We also have noted that the sun is starting to get really intense. It seems worse than further north. Maybe it has just caught up with us, so we unrolled some tarps and covered a lot of the boat to give it some shade. I also checked that prop again, and guess what, it is still there. Nice to see it doing its job. Apart from that I read a book about the death of JFK, and it seems that there is nothing new there, so that was a good waist of time.
So our plans for tomorrow kind of depend on a few things. We think if we can get a berth at either Tin Can Bay or back at Urangan, we will take that to ride out the weather. In that time, as we are so close to home, we will take the bus and come back next week to bring the boat home. This will allow us to sort out a birth at home, which we currently don’t have. No if that all doesn’t happen, then we will sit here, or somewhere close for a week. Lots of books, I fear. Also I have a list of things to do so not all bad. Some people call it relaxing…
Well we will keep you informed about what we will be up too tomorrow.
It was a pretty long boring day without wind for most of the day. We left the marina at about 0630, and we were greeted with no wind. In fact, there was no wind until about 1600. There was a bit in the middle, but the reality is that we spent most of the time running the motors.
In total we did about 90km over 10.5hrs. It was a slow hot day and we were glad to finish it. There are not a lot of pictures to show as we really did not a lot today.
After yesterday’s trip we decided to have an easy day in Bundaberg. It turns out that this may be a bit of an issue as we are losing our window on the weather for traveling south, but we both wanted a bit of a rest.
We had to fill up on water and fuel and a few groceries. So we got the free shuttle to the IGA to get the food and filled the tanks from the marina. All went well and very helpful people everywhere. We completed a few jobs and then got the free shuttle to town. At this point we were confronted with about a 4km walk to the Hinkler museum (it didn’t look far on the map, was somebody’s, who shall remain nameless, comment}. This was something we missed last time, probably because I looked at the map last time…. Bert Hinkler was an important aviator and in 1928 he completed the first flight from the UK to Australia here. The reason he chose Bundaberg, was because this is where he was born and bought up.
So in the heat we walked to the museum. It was not a bad walk as we crossed the river and saw a lot of town. The museum was great. I did not realise that he was not just a pilot, but was actually designing aircraft and was an accomplished engineer in his own right. He built a glider from his own design which he fly from the local beaches, only a few years after the Wright Bros., when he was just 19 years old.
Well the museum was well worth it. We then headed back for the town again, but this time by bus. Well not quite; we missed the last bus by 3 minutes. So we had to walk it again. This time we went through the botanic gardens, which was well worth it.
We waited for the shuttle bus back to the marina to arrive where we were told to wait, but it never did. But rather, the regular bus and the last bus, arrived at the time we thought the shuttle was to arrive, so after a bit of confusion, we got on the regular bus. Turns out there is no free shuttle bus to return on.
On Friday night the marina puts on a free BBQ. We meet up with a number of people we had seen previously as well as a bunch of people coming on a rally from New Caledonia. Seems they were keeping the immigration department busy. It was a good night.
Not a lot of else to tell you. But we are off to Woody Island tomorrow, with a bit of luck.
Today was going to be a big day and we seemed to have a weather window to make Bundaberg, so when we awoke this morning, after a quick assessment we decided to go. It was a bit of a funny day wind wise as it started with SW wind and was expected to move to the NE. So completely opposite directions. The change was due at 1100. We used this to our advantage of sorts. Well at least we used the knowledge of it to our advantage. It would have been a lot better if it was a NE breeze all day.
Well the first thing was the anchor raising. And yes this went without a hitch. So maybe it is fixed. The departure from Pancake creek was at 0530 and went without any issues. We motored out till we were just outside of the headland, then put the sails up. We tacked towards the east missing Middle Rock, which we nearly hit when we were going north.
There was an exclusion zone in place. It is marked as a waypoint on the map. This was where a fishing boat sank with the lose of 6 people. One person was lucky enough to be picked up by a sailing boat. Well we had to keep about 5km away from this point. As you can see this did not really pose a problem for us, but I have to say, some people did not seem to acknowledge that there was an exclusion zone.
As you can see we tacked back towards the shore after clearing the exclusion zone, in anticipation for the wind to shift direction. The slow sweeping curve in our course to aline ourselves with the coast was a reflection of the wind change which occurred over about an hour. Once it came in we then took off, passing many boats in the process and covering a lot of ground. Mind you we needed too as well! We were heading for the marina in Bundaberg, and the last thing I really wanted to do was attack that at night after a long day sailing.
We arrived at the marina at about 1630 and tempted fate and tried to get into our berth. Well the wind and current at the entrance to the bay we were in was running with each other at right angles to the entrance of the pens. The width of the channel between the pens on either side also looked pretty narrow, but we stopped the boat in the current, and proceeded to back it. It was crabbing a lot, but I had it under control and was confident I would make our particular pen. All went well and we approached the pen. Hilary then yelled out to somebody to assist with the ropes, and seems it could not resist (I’m not sure what Hilary was flashing…). Then with a bit of effort, we slipped in to our pen without any issues. A small miracle, but just maybe we are slightly better than when we were here last.
Then that was about it for the day. An early night was had.
Today was supposed to be a day of rest, but for some reason we were busy all day. We still had a problem with the anchor windlass when we used it last. At least the god of windlasses allowed us some mercy and only provides us with his quota of problems when we can handle them best. I am sure that has now jinxed me… Anyway, I had quite enough of this bloody thing (excuse the French), but it was becoming a right royal frustrating pain in the neck, and elsewhere. So I went about looking for the problem from top to bottom. I was happy we had done our best with the relay, and as far as I can see, it is working just fine. So it had to be either the motor or a connection. The only thing that was apparent was that it always occurred towards the end of the retrieval, so it was something getting hot. I assumed it had to be a connection.
So all the connections were removed and cleaned, then tightened. I would say that there was always something to be gained on every connection, so with a lot of hope and anticipation we awaited the next day to see if it worked. Like us, you too will have to wait in great anticipation of a successful outcome.
We then got in the dingy and went for a bit of sightseeing and had a lot of fun zooming around in the shallows and finding channels to take us various places. All in the name of science, of course. We saw a fair few stingrays and some other wild life. The sandflies were by far the prevalent species. Good I suppose if you like them, but talking to a number of people, they don’t seem to be up there on the preferred list…. Mozzies tend to rank higher on the preferred list and marsh flies are considered good sport to see if you can hit them, then actually kill them. This species of insect is good at bitting you as well as performing reincarnation. For those that don’t know what these very large flies can do, well you can belt the living daylights out of them, they will be on their backs, dead as they come, with the ants swarming around having lunch, when up they spring and have another crack at you. When they bight you definitely know about it for quite a while.
But that is enough of the biology lesson. The previous evening we had a great time with Greg and Kerry, who are basically on their madden voyage after building a boat similar to ours. We were on their boat and saw all the differences and compared notes. So today was our turn. Greg arrived at some time in the day to look at our anchor bridal. We have ours tied down low, which is different to most. Anyway he wanted to see if that would help him. His boat tends to sail up its anchor and wander around a bit whilst anchored. Ours does the same, but maybe not as much because of the location of the bridal, but probably more because I have forgotten to worry about it anymore and just park as far away from everybody as I can.
So the afternoon arrived, and along with it came Greg and Kerry with the important food stocks for the evening. I suggested to Greg we get into our dingy and go further exploring up the creeks now that the tide had come in. So off we went so that Hilary and Kerry could tell nasty stories about ourselves and compare their social notes. Well we had fun going further and further up this creek until it was a dingy width wide. We could see bubbles coming up from the bottom in parts and concluded it was a turtle or croc following us. Such bravery! Well we went back considerably quicker than we came.
Then the night went on and on, in a good way. We had recently gotten a hard disk load of movies from a friend of Daniels, which we provided to Greg and Kerry to down load on their system. This took many hours, in fact we were finished before it was. Greg said he appreciated all the X rated movies that Hilary provided. However, I have to say we are still searching for those. In return we received 1600 songs for our enjoyment. There was also a swapping of food. We were the beneficiary of some chocolate, whilst they got some veges or something. We got the better deal there I think.
Then that was that. There wasn’t a lot of pictures taken, but I do tend to agree, one sandfly infested creek tends to look like another. We were thinking of staying another day, but it looks like a window in the weather is appearing tomorrow which will allow us to get to Bundaberg. When we had come north we stayed at 1770 as an interim port, but I have to say, this was not a pleasant spot due to the rather large current, as well as the very narrow entrance. That is also the place that the VMR gave me a lecture on which side the green buoys were as you entered port. You may recall, if not read about it as one of our earlier posts. Anyway, not wanting to face that again, we want to give it a miss.
After last nights effort we still had to catch the tide so as to get through the shallow part of the Narrows. Well this is mosquito infested country, so despite all the screens we have we still had a zillon mozzies to swat in the morning. More to the point they woke us up at about 0430. So we were away by 0530 and approach the shallow part, all 10km of it. We backed the motors off a bit so that if we hit anything, it would be a bit slower. Most people like to go through it fast as there is not a lot of time where the tide is high enough. The tides are about 3.5m, and you need the last 0.5 of the tide to get through, atg least that is what we needed, or was recommended. As it turns out, all the excitement was a little bit of a let down. We didn’t see anything less than 2m of water and as we draw 1m, that left plenty of room.
It was indeed pretty narrow in parts, with the stern of the boat brushing past the mangroves in parts, but it was pretty interesting listening to all the birds and animals in these swamps. I can’t say I would want to go swimming there, and I would not want to breakdown there either, but it was still an interesting diversion.
The tide slung us out of the southern side of the Narrows and we were at Graham Creek before 0800. As the prediction for the day’s weather was clearly falling apart and the nasty weather seemed to be all wrapped up in the previous evenings storm, we decided to press forward to Pancake Creek.
The Port of Gladstone is one massive port. There are jetties everywhere and more beacons to keep a whole nation of sailors happy. It took us 2hrs to motor past the port. There are natural gas works and port, coal port, I assume bauxite jetties, and your run of the mill stuff. As on our north bound journey there are ships anchored out over the horizon waiting to come in. It certainly was a very strong contrast to the nature we have been seeing.
Once past the port we pretty well sailed to Pancake Creek, though the winds were light. The seas were occasionally around 2m, but very long swells, and actually a bit of fun to surf down. However, the though of getting into Pancake Creek with these swells was a little concerning. As it turns out, it was a waist of time worrying about it as the entrance was smooth, with the surf confined to the areas either side of the entrance.
Once inside and anchored we meet up with Greg and Kerry, who are sailing a similar boat to ours that they also built themselves. So lots of fun times there.
Now tomorrow is a rest day as today we traveled another 90km and we need a break. Also the weather is no good and the way it looks we will have a couple of days here. The mozzies are just as bad as the Narrows, so a new technique for mozzie eradication may need to be developed.
Now tomorrow, I am going to update all the latest blog sites with maps and photos. But too tired now.
Last night we had a discussion with the captain of the boat which we nearly hit and after a bit of throwing around ideas, we decided that instead of trying to make Pancake Creek, which was a long way off, we would be better to try somewhere closer. The big issue is that a server storm was predicted for the afternoon. If it was early, then the last place I wanted to be was trying to make Pancake Creek. So a short day was planned instead and we decided to head for The Narrows. It is a narrow stretch of water between Curtis Island and the mainland. Although it was a short trip we still got up at 0500 and were away 15 minutes later.
We left with some pretty strong winds, in fact winds that had persisted all night and were now left over to the joy of the many that left before us. Although we were sheltered from the waves, the wind would come in big gusts nearly all night. It seems that this is pretty consistent with previous evenings. Anyway, the gusts were still there in the morning which made for some interesting moments as we put the sail up. But as you would expect, it soon died off and we were left with the 2m of slop and about 10knots. Not really that bad as it was a following sea. You can see from the track we took, that we tacked all the way down wind.
At the entrance to the Fitzroy river we had a very strong wind over tide situation. The waves were really standing up. Again it was not dangerous, but a bit untidy. But we sailed our way through it, although at times it was hard to make headway with the tide.
Then we turned into The Narrows proper. At this point we were doing 1knot as the current was strong and the wind was fairly light. We struggled for about an hour, but it eventually got to the point where we had to motor. We were heading for Badger Creek, as it would provide a lot of protection, but we were arriving at low tided, where it presented its true issues. There is not a lot of room in this or any of the creeks. I am not sure we would have been able to turn around. Anyway, it was clear we were not going to anchor in any of the creeks leading into The Narrows, so we went as far as we could with the tide we had and anchored there.
The problem with The Narrows, is that at about half tide there is no water in the channel for a short portion in the middle where the tides meet. In one part of the channel there is a road crossing and in another is a cattle crossing at low tide. So the way it works is that boats go through at high tide and I assume 4×4’s go through at low tide, but in a direction at right angle to the boats. Well we had arrived at the place where there was no more water with the tide we had. So we anchored up for the night.
The spot we anchored in was a bit narrow for the chain length we had out, but it looked ok. But that is another tale which will follow. The evening was spent discussing the approach to getting through the shallow part of the Narrows, with another captain. Lots of different approaches, but they all hinged around getting through the shallow bit as fast as you can at high tide. The shallow bit ran for 10km. Funny enough the captain we got talking to built the house of our neighbours back at Cedar Creek. This generated a significant amount of conversation, to say the least. All was good as we watched the predicted storm build.
The storm was later than predicted, and as it was to arrive around dark, the thoughts were that it would not be as bad as a 4pm storm. In Brisbane, these are usually the bad ones. However, the sky looked a bit ominous and I actually took a picture of it. It turns out it was nearly my last! Well it hit, and it hit hard. Within a few seconds the winds changed from a 15knot Northerly to a 30knot Southerly. It was that quick. This picked Bush Spirit up and speared it towards the other shore. The anchor took some time to recover, and I think it did, but we ended up very close to the shore. About 10metres from the mangroves. That is just too close for me with the wind howling and the rain pouring down. We were prepared to some extent and we had the motors ready to go. So very quickly they were on and we were motoring into the wind to help the anchor settle. Well it was clear we needed to reset the anchor to give us a bit more room between us and the mangroves. With some miracle the anchor came up without a hitch. The rain was teeming down and Hilary was up the front pulling the anchor in, whilst I was doing my best to steer into the wind.
Then I felt a tingle between my hand on the wheel and that clutching to the superstructure of the boat. Hilary felt it also as she was winding up the anchor. Then the bang. The loudest you have heard. We were struck by lightning, or it was very close. My immediate thought was about if we had any of our communications left, as it probably hit the mast. All the motors were still operating, Hilary was yelling something, so was alive, and we appeared to have navigation, which was a blessing, but thoughts ran through my head about whatelse was left. But we moved Bush Spirit into a large area where we were doing circles just to wait it out a bit to make a proper assessment of the situation, as the storms usually only last for a few minutes. Well then it got a bit harder. The navigation system failed and then the back up failed because there was so much static electricity, all the GPS based systems were being jammed. So all we could do was use the lightning flashes, of which there were many, to light up the passage so that we could see the banks which gave us a lateral bearing, and the lights of three other boats, which we could occasionally see to give us a longitudinal bearing. With this we went round and round in circles many times until the wind pretty well stopped. It took about 10 minutes. Then we anchored again, and cleaned up the mess. There was water everywhere and we were drenched.
We then had tea and went to bed. There was another storm later on, but I slept through it. I think it was pretty minor.
So survived another experience. I am not so sure it was useful, but I am sure it will be somewhere. Tomorrow we head through the shallow part of the Narrows and plan to have a short day and stay in Graham Creek, just north of Gladstone.
This was definitely one of those early start days. We got up as the sun came up and were on our way before it popped its head across the hills. Along with another yacht, we sailed out of the relatively narrow channel to the open sea, to be greeted by the endless waves that had been stirred up by the solid breeze the night before.
But today the wind was good with about 10 to 15knots and from the north. We moved away from the coast as soon as we could as close to the rocks on the coast was a multitude of waves coming from a multitude of directions. I also thought that as the day wore on, the breeze would turn to the east, so what was looking like a direct tack to Brisbane, would eventually turn to one to Great Keppel Island. Well I at least I got that one right, as it turns out.
Now there was not a lot to do and the sun was pretty warm, but this time we were on the lookout for boats, after yesterdays little mishap. Well in all the ocean we could see the yacht we left with (for about an hour) and one way over next to the mainland, which was clearly slowly moving our way. Well after about 6 hours this yacht was clearly getting very close and indeed we looked like we may have to avoid each other. Not again I thought. Is this ocean that small! Anyway, no big deal this time and we passed with a good 100m between us, in a controlled manner.
The wind then picked up and we made good time to Great Keppel. We averaged 7knots over the 120km (70NM) trip. About an hour after we arrived, the boat we crossed arrived and much to our surprise got in his dingy and came across to us. Well if it had been the other day, I might have expected it, along with a frank discussion about my lack of attention to the matter. But today, I was a bit puzzled. Anyway, the captain was all smiles and in his words he “came to see the boat he nearly hit twice in two days”. We were puzzled at first, but it was the same boat we nearly hit the previous day! We discussed the upcoming weather, who had right of way (turns out we did, just as well somebody knew) and various other things. It was all good and in the end the discussion lead to our change of plans for tomorrow.
So all in all, a very good day, if not a bit long. Tomorrow, as it turns out, due to the weather, we will head for the Narrows., rather than Pancake Creek.
This will be a short update as there is not a lot to tell you. There is a big open void south of middle Percy Island which doesn’t seem to have a lot of anchorages which are suitable with northerly winds. So we set out for Port Clinton, which is 23km south of Island Head Creek, about 100km south of Middle Percy. We took a tack to the east of South Percy, because the charts said the current running between the Percy Islands was 3knots, and we certainly wanted to be going in that direction. As the tide was falling, that direction was East.
The night before the wind was a little bit persistent and this had left the sea state a bit sloppy. It was especially bad off the eastern end of South Percy. We were all alone out there because most of the boats had left before sunrise by the look of it, and all those other slackers who left at 0600 went to the west of South Percy. We never did see them again. Maybe they are further south.
Anyway, one great big long tack out to the ocean then one back to the mainland and a short one at the end which resulted from an inconvenient wind shift near the coast. There was a bit of wild life with a few dolphins, and a bird that persisted and sit on our front deck and hitchhike all the way. Of course he needed a toilet, and he found the top of the hatch very useful. At one stage he was on our solar panels as well, which I took a very dim view of as he was shading it. Again a convenient toilet spot. By the afternoon the hatch had a white covering to it. I suppose it kept the sun out…Not so good for the solar panel efficiency though.
We had pretty light winds most of the day, except in the afternoon. But by the time they came up we had decided to cut the day short and head for Island Head Creek. The only excitement we had was that we nearly hit another boat. I think we would have missed if avoidance maneuvers had not been performed, so it sounds more exciting than it really was. The story goes like this. With a 100km trip there was lots of time to do things other than sail as the autopilot occasionally is good at that, and today it was having a pretty good day. But being the diligent captain, I sat on my chair to keep a general lookout for ships, rocks and wildlife. But you have to appreciate that being in the sun like it is (and it is awfully hot at times), you tend to get a little less diligent as the day wears on. But this is not the complete excuse. As it was a longish sail without a lot of action, I decided to read a book. It was an interesting book, possible a bit too interesting, anyway we were plodding along at about 1500 and a call came on the radio. Somebody wanted to know if they should avoid us or were going to avoid them. Really, who I thought! No bloody boats within coe of here. Then I bent my head and looked beyond the sail and oh maybe somebody is actually well and truly within coe. So the immediate reaction was to bare away, but we were all ready hard over on the wind and to bare up would mean certain collision, so I said to Hilary that we would like to take up his offer to avoid us. So we missed by about 50m, and as we did so I noticed he was not steering it from the outside either, so probably didn’t see us till the last moment. Probably his collision avoidance system worked better than ours. So a touch of excitement, but what would be the chances of actually hitting. Pretty remote, but having said that, it would add to the pretty remote problems we have been having anyway. It would make the news!
We got to Island Head creek after about 10hours, and averaged about 6knots. It was a pretty slow run most of the day, though we did get to 11knot at one stage, probably for a millisecond. Island head Creek was very quiet for about an hour then 3 others joined us. It was all good, and we had a good evening watching a movie. Actually I fell asleep. So tomorrow we have another early day as we need to get south a fair way. There is a storm coming Tuesday night, so I want to get to Pancake Creek by then. I should have no troubles doing that, but “no troubles” doesn’t seem to fit the bill lately.
I am sorry the pictures have been a bit scarce lately, but I will catch up when we get some solid internet service. Probably at Great Keppel Island.