Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 13. Still Mackay

We24th January 2011

Mackay Marina

Ww are back! After a week in Brisbane, Rona and  left this morning at some ungodly hour and arrived in Mackay at about 10.00am. We had a great time in Brisbane, Rona got her business side of things under control and I caught up with old friends and made some new ones. Thank you to Harriet for getting up and driving us to the airport. I appreciate that is a huge effort.

We had done most of the top up shopping in Brisbane as we don’t have transport in Mackay. There was an interesting moment when we opened the overhead lockers “carefully, because things may have moved during the flight”. In our case it was potatoes and various vegetables that threatened to cascade upon the floor but we finally struggled off with our victuals intact.

It was a glorious winters day without a cloud in the sky as we joined the boat. Unfortunately there is a tropical cyclone, Anthony hanging off the coast North East of us. Only a category one and travelling east it SHOULD present no problems.

We stowed the gear aboard and started undoing the preparations that we had in case of a cyclone while we were away. Extra lines were removed, the dinghy was brought up from below and the boat was aired. The wind is still blowing at 20 to 25 knts but the forecast is to ease from tomorrow. Given it is midday and Digby, the nearest Island south is 42 miles away we have decided to postpone departure until tomorrow when the weather will improve.

Besides, it is the 13th day of our trip, (not that sailors are superstitious, touch wood!) and the waterfront bars and restaurants at Mackay are very seductive.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 12 Tortuga! Well, Mackay anyway

15th January 2011
Mackay Marina

Figuring that the wind is less in the mornings than during the day we decided on an early start from Goldsmith Island. This wasn’t to be the case and we motor sailed the 26 miles to Mackay in over 20 knts of breeze. The sea was lumpy but the headsail settled the boat. Still we accomplished some 67 nms of tacking to get to the marina.

Mackay Marina never fails to surprise Dreamagic. The last time I was here was in 2009 and the events of that visit were, well unusual. That’s for another story though. This time Rona and I went up to the marina to check in and enquire about hire cars. On return to the Dreamagic Isabelle had received calls from home and had to return to Sydney asap. Computers were fired up, flights were booked and within 20 minutes they were packed and in a cab to the airport with an hour to catch their flight. I hope everything is OK at home for you guys. Thanks for the trip, it was great sailing with you.

Rona and I walked to the Sailing Club to consider the next leg of the trip south. The wind, which is courtesy of Cyclone Zellia shows no sign of dropping until about Tuesday. If we leave before then we’ll be bashed all the way south, if we stay until then we won’t get to Rockhampton in time for Rona to catch her plane to Brisbane for a Friday Meeting.

We had booked a table for dinner at the sailing club but cancelled in favour of fish and chips at the café on the corner of the marina.

As is often the case with problems, the solution becomes clear with time. N this instance we finally decided to leave the boat here for a week, get the Brisbane stuff out of the way and fly back to collect it next Monday. This gives us the time to bring iit down the coast without stressing it, or us.

Arriving back at Dreamagic we booked flights to depart here on Sunday, returning Monday week. For some reason I felt completely drained after the past two weeks of sailing and was asleep by 8 pm.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 11 Goldsmith Island

14th January 2011
Goldsmith Island. The Cumberland Islands

The stories of what is happening in Brisbane are still filtering through, and as we had a flat battery this morning anyway, we got underway asap and headed for the Whitsunday Passage and some sort of phone coverage. In the passage, and when we had more than 12 volts of power I also tuned the TV into the local stations. (Yes, we have a TV)

Wow! Images of lakes where houses were compete for space in the news. We had no idea it was this bad. Anna Bligh is talking absolute crap about how “her” Queensland will cope and there are numerous images of an “heroic” tug driver who is pushing part of a floating walkway downstream so it doesn’t collide with the Dockside Marina. “The Little Tug” sounding more like Thomas the Tank Engine is getting more coverage than the bigger and more important issues. Then that bloody woman is self promoting herself by telling viewers how she sat in on every meeting while the “heroic” Damn Managers made the decision to release the water from Wivenhoe dam, thereby flooding Brisbane. (Oh, sorry, should that be Dam Managers?) Aren’t these people just doing their jobs? No doubt the “Little Tug Driver” will be up for Queenslander of the year while the Wivenhoe managers who two years ago were heroically managing the drought will now get performance bonuses.

Meanwhile we have a very dismal day with wind, on the nose of course. We motored to Goldsmith Island and picked our way carefully through the coral to some shelter from the wind, which has now had a maxed at 31 knts, or over 55 kph in the old scale. During the trip we read books, slept a lot, and Mark decided to learn to juggle. (See Photo)

Three things I have learned while sailing.
1)      Do not cook bacon in the nude.
2)      Chlamydia is not something you send by Interflora for Mothers day. (*see note below)
3)      You can’t learn to juggle on a moving yacht

Still, it was an heroic effort. (The juggling, not the other two. Although the bacon one was impressive.)
Anchor down, we had lunch of ham, cheese, home, or should I say yacht baked bread and pickles.

The wind started to increase and there were occasional rain squalls as we sheltered in this forlorn bay. Across the bay there is Farrier island, a tiny piece of land on which there are a dozen or so huts and one very nice small house with a beautifully kept lawn. Our pilot guide suggests these are private homes as we gaze at the through binoculars. I wonder if the are gazing back at us.

Because we are going into Mackay tomorrow and can refuel and water, the latter is off ration. We all took turns in a complete shower off the back deck before Isabelle decided to try her hand at fishing. After a few minutes the screaming off the back alerted us to the fact that she had been successful and her admonishing of the “imbecile” fish who had so stupidly taken the bait, her imploring someone to release it unharmed, and her apologies to the fish for hurting it indeed revealed that we had a decent size reef fish looking very surprised at a woman who was jerking around more than it was. We got it off the hook, noting that it had swallowed the bait and released it with a full belly and a cheery “til next time” waive of it’s dorsal fin.

Dinner was a superb as ever. A chicken curry with rice cooked by the very talented Rona, and then an early night listening to the wind howl around the boat.

*The explanation. This refers to an incident that happened a year ago on a sailing trip in Thailand. To understand you had to be there, or at least be a part of the sailing scene then.

“Some learn by their own mistakes, fortunate ones learn by the mistakes of others. Then there are the guys who have to urinate on the electric fence to see what happens”  
Capt’n Willi Cinque.
(Fortunately Capt’n Willi is more than happy to watch, from a safe distance, the latter)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 10 El Cid

12th  January 2011
Cid Harbour, Whitsundays

Day 10
We awoke to a beautiful day with high cloud and wind. Unfortunately we also awoke to the sound of sms messages coming through at an alarming rate. Brisbane is being savaged by rain and floods which are only getting worse. Rona called home and although her house is safe there is no transport in the area. She was due to get off at Hamilton Island tomorrow and fly back to Brisbane for some important meetings on Friday but calls to her clients confirmed that no one can move at the moment so the meetings are postponed a week. Good news for Dreamagic because she can stay on the boat, but worrying for anyone with Brisbane connections.

We decided to sail to the north of Hook Island where the diving is supposed to be the best in the Whitsundays. W grabbed a public mooring in Luncheon Bay and our guests spent a couple of hours snorkelling before we moved on to Manta Ray Bay which is said to be the best. We were lucky enough to catch a mooring here also and we all dived along with the contents of a couple of tour operator craft and saw the coral here. The tour boats are regulars and a couple of giant groupers hang at the site waiting to be fed which livens up proceedings when you first encounter them.

About lunchtime we slipped the mooring and sailed down the Whitsunday passage in sometimes 20 knts of breeze to a delightful anchorage called Sawmill Bay in the lee of the Whitsunday Island at Cid Harbour. Dinner was a very French affair of pork medallions coated in a parmesan batter and served with grated potato cakes, French beans (what else?) and pumpkin. Thank you Isabelle. A fitting end to a superb day.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 9 One Particular Harbour

11th  January 2011
Nara Inlet, Whitsundays

Day 9

One Particular Harbour

The day started very overcast. We heard via an sms that there had been a flash flood in Toowoomba and 8 people had died. The Brisbane River was on flood alert and the Brisbane CBD had been evacuated. Here in our world we are far removed from all this and it is hard to appreciate what is happening outside.
A storm cell started to come over us so we weighed anchor and tried to outrun it. No such luck and the breakfast of egg and bacon was eaten in the rain while the crew sat below tucking into theirs. It was possible to steer round subsequent cells so once we had some sea room the rest of the course to Nara Inlet was relatively dry.
About 4 miles off Nara Inlet we got wind! 10 knots, slightly off the bow so we hoisted sail, killed the motor and sailed down the Whitsunday Passage for a while before tacking for the entrance. Sailing at last! We played suitable sailing music, Christopher Cross, Little River band, Crosby Stills Nash and of course Jimmy Buffett. Lunch was lamb and oregano wraps an the world looked a lot better as we cleared the reef into Nara.

Nara Inlet is one of my Favourite Harbours In The World. There ae only a few of them but this one is right up there. A long fiord like channel with absolutely still water and an abundance of wildlife. I have been here many times and really connect with the place for some reason.

We anchored at the head of the inlet and while the  others took the dinghy to see the Aboriginal Cave and the fresh water fall, I just sat on Dreamagic and soaked up the ambiance of the surroundings.

We shared the inlet with about a dozen other yachts, mostly charters. This is a favourite first night stop for the fleet and I was a little worried that the exuberance of some of the crews first night afloat might ruin the stillness of the night ahead. However such is the power of Nara that the evening fell to no more than the noise of the cockatoos and the wild goats put here by the British to feed shipwrecked sailors many years ago and now flourishing in this paradise.

Once dark we sat on the stern, drank wine and watched the phosphorescence in the water. A juvenile shark glided by, its dorsal fin trailing a shower of green magic dust behind it. We flicked the dinghy painter and marvelled at how the tiny green animals scattered across the still, black surface of the water. Some of the creatures got caught in the strands of the painter and it glowed as we put it back in the water. Other than our own music, Italian Opera played very quietly, there were no sounds from other yachts and only the braying of a goat looking for it’s mate in the hills dark above us. A truly memorable night.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 8 The Full Monty

10th  January 2011
Picnic Bay, Gloucester Island

Day 8

We refuelled and topped up water at Bowen. The fuel wharf was between two trawlers (see photo) so we needed a little shore help to squeeze in. Our filler cap didn’t match the huge thing they use for trawlers either so we had to trickle the fuel in which took about 40 minutes and gave the hordes of mosquitoes a leisurely lunch. While we did this, Isabelle went shopping. The wharf is owned by the local fish co-operative, (hence the trawlers) and other than that there are no shops for miles around. Non the less as we were about to take off Isabelle comes hurtling down the dock at her normal operating speed with shopping bags. Coral Trout, Red Emperor, prawns. Looks like a good lunch!

Getting into the harbour wasn’t so hard, just make sure nothing is coming, give her heaps and Dreamagic came out from between the ships like a champagne cork from a warm bottle.

We motored out of their tricky harbour and across the Gloucester passage to Gloucester Island. I have been to Montys Resort a few times so we chose the other side of the passage at Picnic Bay for an anchorage. The pilot Guide “100 Magic Miles” suggests we can anchor within 30 meters of the shore and there are freshwater streams and pools. We are about 200 metres from shore, with less than 2 metres under our keel at low tide. Non the less it is secure, the dinghy was launched, the outboard attached and while the crew went in search of the fresh water streams, I went to bed.

The description of the brackish mangrove water that Mark and Isabelle found doesn’t seem to match the sparkling clear streams in the book. Mark also felt that they were crocodile infested which was curiously omitted by the author. Non the less we had prawns for lunch and a beautiful coral trout for dinner. The cooking of the trout was from an award winning receipe. Imply bring sea water to the boil, drop in the trout. The water will go off the boil. Leave it on the gas, when it comes back to the boil the trout is done. Sceptically, Isabelle tried this. It works! Perfect fish, just cooked.

After dinner Mark suggested we go to the resort for dessert. The resort is about a km away across the channel so we piled into the duck and took off. Half way across I realised that we didn’t have any safety gear. No torch especially but we were committed anyway.

The resort is a very low key affair. Indeed low key enough to only have three desserts, and one was off. We tucked into Passionfruit Cheesecake and Mudcake and then made our way back to the dinghy to launch for the 1 km trip home inn the dark. The wind had picked up by now and there was a short chop across the passage which gave us all a thorough soaking. That aside a successful trip back without being washed out to sea.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 7 Burning the Midnight Oil

9th  January 2011

Day 7

Today we lost Claire and Christian. (Very careless I know). Seriously what with no wind and no diving, (The visibility is crap because of all the rains) they finally decided that as there is an airport in Townsville and this may be their last chance for a while they should grab it. Guys, it has been a pleasure having you on the boat and I hope we stay in touch.

We have wind! Not much, and blowing in the wrong direction but it does show it exists. We finally said our goodbyes, left the Frenchies with the Moke and got underway about 10am. Our options are fairly limited. Cape Cleveland is only 8 nms away, Cape Bowling Green is a respectable 60nms, Cape Upstart an ambitious 100nms, or Bowen at 140nms. Our reasoning is Cleveland is too near, Bowling Green has crap anchoring so it’s Upstart or Bowen. We decidied to make a decision when we got to Upstart.
The weather was fine so with jib and motor we chugged Dreamagic along at an average of about 7 knts. The wind filled to 15knts but still jut slightly off the Port bow so we kept that configuration until Abbott Point. We were rewarded with an absolutely stunning sunset as we eat, listened to music or dozed. There were some surprising moments trying to identify the lights at Abbott Point Wharf. The yellow ones were easy, the are on the chart. The white ones were tankers and surprisingly they were not shown.

At about 01.00 we were in line with Bowen and ready to make an approach. The northern entrance is marked but I have been through there in daylight and scared myself. I am certainly not keen to do it at night. We took the longer southern entrance and arrived just outside the harbour at 02.00. We dropped anchor in 5 metres of water just out of the channel markers and immediately fell asleep.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day 6 On the Hippy Trail

8th  January 2011

Nelly Bay Magnetic Island

Day 6

An early start due to some very threatening weather saw us around Magnetic Island and into the marina at Nelly Bay. The last time we were here was for race week. It is very different at the moment, very empty. We tied Dreamagic to her berth, booked in, and went to a café for breakfast.

A touch of retail therapy, in my case at the hardware store for rope and glue and I spent the next hour fixing the dinghy while everyone showered, shopped or “just did their thing.” Magnetic Island is like that, very hippy.

On the Hippy Trail
We met around lunchtime for a swim in the resort pool and lunch on board. Mark wanted to hire a mini moke to complete the transition from respectable businessman to surfer beach bum. Eventually he got a purple one and he and Isobelle went to burn some rubber around the island.

In the evening we found a great little pizza place and shared pizza served by ocker Aussies, washed down with red wine while listening to Spanish flamenco. The  atmosphere proved to much for some, who decided to put on an impromptu dance in the carpark. (See photo). The management were impressed enough to give us two bottles of wine which followed what we had brought before returning to the boat, or in some cases sneaking into the pool for a midnight dip.

Carpark Dancing

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 5 Horeshoe Bay, Magnetic Island

7th  January 2011

Horseshoe Bay Magnetic Island

We woke to another beautiful day, yet again with no wind. An early start with only a chain wrapped around the anchor winch marring a beautiful motor to Horseshoe Bay.

Travelling in a boat one isn’t aware of what is happening in the outside world. The weather here is beautiful. Brilliant sunshine, blue skies. It comes as a surprise to learn that Brisbane is getting pounded by rain. In Bundeberg, on the Burnett River 70 yachts were lost or damaged when the river flooded and washed their moorings away. 70 yachts! Bureau of Meteorology told us that the Whitsundays must expect destructive winds last night. We will be there in three days, but right now we are enjoying the best weather I can remember in a long while.

During the crossing Isabelle, the human energizer bunny decided to clean. She drafted Mark and Rona  cleaned the cockpit, rearranged the lazarretts, and the cabin. We then had a self cleaning session of indulgence, showering in fresh water. Our intention is to get a berth at Nelly Bay on Saturday so we can afford to be extravagant with water. It’s funny how little luxuries take on great significance at sea.

We anchored in Horseshoe Bay, the only boat here. Last time I was here was in September for the Magnetic Island Race Week and the place was packed. We dinghied ashore to one of my favourite places on the East Coast, Cottees Fish and Chip Shop. Purchasing mackerel and chips and eating them in the shed on the beach looking out at a sunset over water while drinking wine out of a brown paper bag decanted into disposable cups. A marvellous end to a beautiful day.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 4 The Fantome of the Opera

6th  January 2011

Day 4
Fantome Island

Last night was very hot and sticky. Consequently most of the crew were up to see a beautiful sunrise over Hinchinbrook. This place really has amazing beauty and has a real calming effect on the soul.
That is until Isobelle dropped a pillow from her hammock over the side and had to be restrained from diving for it. The place is full of crocodiles and fortunately we persuaded her to take the rubber ducky instead.

(Sailing Note: Crocodiles don’t eat rubber duckies. It makes them fart. Capt’n Willi)

All safe on board, including a decent size fish that committed suicide by jumping in the dinghy last night, we had breakfast before making the journey to the Lucinda Jetty. The water here is very shallow in parts and although we have chosen high tide to make the crossing it is still quite technical. This is when I noticed that CMap has it’s vagaries. At Dunk it showed we were about 100 metres up the beach, here it is constantly to starboard of where we actually are. Very strange. Still we managed the crossing and at about 11.00 we were back in the Coral Sea motoring south in beautiful sunshine, and no wind.

Between Fantome island and Orpheus Island there is a wide protected bay. We anchored near the coral and settled down to a late lunch. The outboard is still playing up so the crew swam in while I tried to fix the problem. It seems that the carburettor has come loose from the block and petrol is seeping through the  joint. I tightened that and it now seems to work. I hope so! I am having a run of bad luck with the boat at the moment and all manner of small things seem to require attention.

Dinner was a Massaman curry, while watching the lightening from storm cells over the mainland. Finally one hit us but rather than run for cover we put “The Soggy Bottom Boys” on the stereo and sat and enjoyed the coolness of the rain.

Pictured is Claire and Christian performing a "Happy Dance" while it is p^ssing down. Must be French thing, but it was hilarious! thanks Guys!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 3 Hinchinbrook Channel

Groundwork at Cardwell
The weather this morning was magnificent, but still no wind.  The dinghy outboard just stopped last night so I gave that a few pulls before deciding that it was probably water in the petrol. I wanted to get to Port Hinchinbrook for fuel so I decided to look at that later.
After a breakfast of fruit, muesli, toast, eggs, and marmalade we weighed anchor and headed towards the channel.

We are baking our own bread aboard Dreamagic now so together with the yoghurt making we are becoming a regular greenie troupe. The boat settled down to getting the chores out of the way and then reading, listening to music or just dreaming our way across the flat water of Rockingham Bay.

Claire had noticed in the pilot book that there was supposed to be good diving off Goold Island so we detoured there. The visibility was poor though and our sounder indicated that the bottom was very rocky. I just held the boat on its motor without putting the anchor down while Claire, Christian and Isobelle had a swim.

Port Hinchinbrook is the last fuel before Rockhampton so we entered the channel and took 80 litres. The Port is actually a canal development built with much controversy by Keith Williams in the eighties. The fuel wharf is actually a private house at the far end of the development and obviously hated by its residential neighbours. Before even getting off the boat I had to sign a waiver that made me personally liable for any contamination of the water.

Typical of canal developments, and not unlike the Blue Water development in Cairns, the owners of the waterfront blocks want it to be a private paradise, but want the public they are so desperate to exclude to contribute their rates to its upkeep. Hinchinbrook is almost unnavigable at anything below half tide, and even then only through a tight, convoluted secondary channel temporarily marked inside the main one, We ploughed our way through on the entry but with a falling tide became fast on our exit. Fortunately a speedboat was returning and with the aid of his motor and ours we got back into the main channel, saving a 4 hour delay.

We motored down the Hinchinbrook Channel and anchored in a Gayundah Creek on the Island side. I pulled the outboard apart while a dinner of steak, pasta and Bolognese sauce was prepared. Good night was at about 8.00pm!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 2 Fitzroy to Dunk Island

A Dunking at Dunk

Day 2
Dunk Island

After a very wet night we woke to find blue skies, a flat sea, and no wind. I wanted an early start so we kicked the motor over at 07.00 and motored to Dunk Island, some 60 knms away.
Dreamagics’ usual routine of opening beers at 10.00 (It’s five o’clock somewhere) is spoiled by the fact that our guests don’t drink much alcohol. A very sober Dreamagic sailed past  High Island, Russell Island and The Barnards to get a good jump on the trip. It’s so different from when we came through here in September. Then it was 30knts on the nose, now it’s 5 knts from behind. We are still motoring though!

The big event was Christian demolishing the companionway stairs. He is a very big man to say the least and the bottom half of the two part stairway over the motor just pulled the screws from their housing. Fortunately I have some stainless steel screws on board and with the aid of a power drill I managed to make repair.

After a magnificent lunch of Asian wraps with smoked salmon and Atlantic salmon we sat on the transom and took turns dunking each other.

Wind! One hour out of Dunk the wind had reached a heady 9 knts so we hoisted sail and reached for home. Of course it dropped out as soon as we had the sails set but none the less we raced for the anchorage at the frightening pace of about 3 knts before dousing sail and dropping the pick.

Christian and Claire cooked the beautiful evening meal of Moroccan Chicken washed down with a little wine before Christian serenaded us on my guitar. God, we eat well on this boat! The evening sky was crystal clear and star gazing was the sport before retiring.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cairns to Brisbane Day 1 Fitzroy

3rd January 2011

Day 1
Cairns Yacht Club

Last night we had guests aboard to say goodbye. Kerri and Kevin, Sue and Ken, John and Ifja, (I do have to find out how to spell her name!) and Ian came down to wish Dreamagic well on her sail south. Thanks Guys for making the effort and I will look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Early today Dreamagic’s guests for the voyage joined the boat. Isobelle and Mark I have sailed with before, Christian and Claire are new friends. All except Mark speak French as a native tongue and his French is very good. As we are storing more food than we took to the Louisiades aboard, and  the air is thick with excited French comments about our upcoming trip I am feeling very continental, N’est pas?

We had a celebratory glass of champagne with Susannah, who is Simone’s mum, and Isobelle’s sister in law, (do try to keep up!) before we let the lines go and motored over to Fitzroy Island for our first night. (Or Nui Une, mai oui!) The weather was very calm with threatening clouds. Christian fished for a while and caught a couple of unidentified reef fish on a handline, Isobelle managed to rig a hammock on the deck, and the boat settled into that lazy routine hopefully indicative of what is to come. At dusk, the clouds made good their threats as the rain decided to lash the deck during our first meal together. However, remembering Capt’n Willi’s edict about ordeal and adventure we grabbed soap and had our first fresh water shower on the deck. Nightcaps in the saloon finished the day before and early, if very hot with the hatches closed, night.