Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sailing North. Or rather, not.

31st July 2011
Mackay Marina

Hi again!

The more observant Ocean Racer Chasers may have noticed that Capt’n Willi Cinque has abandoned writing the ships log on a day by day basis. This is mainly because of the discovery of which invites cruisers worldwide to write their blogs.

Interesting as they may be, they all contain the same ingredients. Sailed here. No wind or too much wind or wrong direction. Another bloody tropical Island. Dropped anchor. These other boats were also here. Had sundowners with Sally and Harry on the beach/their/our boat. Watched another bloody tropical sunset. Had dinner, went to bed, had breakfast, raised anchor, sailed here. Of course the more unobservant ORC would not have noticed that the blogs had stopped, or merely assumed that we had sunk. To you may I just say, Thank you for your support, and after I have washed it I will wear it often.

So, Capt’n Willi missed writing about our night at Digby Island which was quite delightful. (Dropped anchor, watched sunset, went to bed, etc. etc.) or our sail across to Mackay Marina ( wind too light, wrong direction… actually that isn’t true we had a great sail.) where we arrived some 10 days ago. We caught up with a good friend of ours, Chris from the Bavaria 50 Time Lord. He’s doing Airlie and Maggie in the same division as us. They arrived direct from Bundaberg and made our 36 hour stints seem tame with the mileage they put under her keel in single hits. We had a couple of dinners with them before they continued up to Airlie. We stayed, and Rona went back to Brisbane for business while I got frustrated negotiating with various people with varying proficiencies in English in different time zones, trying to do some research for an “Exciting New Business Venture” as they call it in BRW.

Mackay is a fantastic marina with a Yacht Club, pub, restaurants galore, and a great 5 star hotel. What it doesn’t have is a supermarket, or indeed any shops whatsoever. (Now there is an “exciting new business opportunity”). The day after Rona had gone I was getting cabin fever so decided to go into town. It was at this point that I discovered another oddity of the Mackay Marina. There are only 3 buses a day to Mackay, and none at all on Sundays, being a religious holiday presumably. (It’s only fortunate that the Sabbath is not observed in Brisbane. If it were there would be no taxis on Fridays).

I had arrived at the bus stop at 07.15. An examination of the timetable showed that the first bus was 08.45. However, it also showed that the bus would arrive at the Canelands Shopping Centre at 09.00.  A 15 minute journey if my maths are correct.

I have written about the reasons for my lack of mathematical skills before in these pages. It was in the blog about my days at Private School, or Public Schools as they are known in England. I think that blog was entitled “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash”. No it wasn’t, that was the working title. It was called “Why I wish I had paid more attention at maths” and it is at if you are interested. Anyway, using the Mr Singh method of solving a mathematical problem:  Bus takes 15 minutes, allow for stops, a 7 minute actual ride, Mackay is just a brisk walk.

Are the buses made by Ferrari? Is that why there are so few of them? An hour and a half later I was not so much brisk walking as staggering into Mackay like someone who has just crossed the Simpson on foot. Fortunately I got there just as the Number 12 bus from Mackay Marina arrived. Had it beaten me I would have been very miffed.

I had a haircut, and a bite of lunch before wandering around the very quaint old part of Mackay. At about 1.30 I felt I had experienced enough and that I should get back to the boat and my conversations with Indians. I eventually located the bus stop, looked at the timetable and the next (and last) bus back to the marina was at 16.05. Or in two and a half hours time.

I would like to say that the trip back was much easier. I would like to say that but I would be lying. No hat, no suntan lotion, no sunglasses and no water. What do they say about mad dogs and Englishmen?

Well, that is why I am a Yachtsman. We don’t walk. All I can say is don’t try that at home. Overall it was in excess of 20kms including wandering around town. (I measured it when I hired a car to collect Rona at the Airport yesterday). My knee seized during the night and I could hardly walk for the next two days. Talking to the Land of the Waving Palms takes patience that I was sadly lacking, and for once they felt like hanging up on me. At least I didn’t call at dinner time.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sailing North: A Midnight Crossing

19th July

“Sailing on a Midnight Boat,
There were no questions asked
The water’s so green and the air is so clean,
He just stuck right to his task”
Havana Daydreaming
Jimmy Buffett

Courtesy of the war games we have to travel about 100 nms in one leg to The Percy Islands. (In one leg, not on one leg!)This stops us pulling into Port Clinton, Pearl Bay, Island Head, Thirsty Sound and all those traditional stops cruisers use to break up the quite hazardous prospect of trying to stay awake for a considerable amount of time. It would be foolhardy to enter an anchorage in the dark so it has to be an overnighter, timing ones arrival to be in daylight hours. Even then there are plenty of Islands and solitary rocks to avoid along the way. And we haven’t included the Military Exclusion Zone which also has to be avoided. And which, by my calculations adds another 30 nms to the trip.

We planned to leave at 3.00pm. The radio waves were abuzz with conversations between yachties about leaving at midnight and sailing via New Zealand or something but we decided to run our own race. Conscious that our last overnighter was miscalculated so that we arrived at Keppel at 4.00am I checked the figures again, and then again. 3.00pm it is.

We left Keppel Bay at 07.30 in a beautiful southerly. We had decided that since we were going to spend the day waiting to leave, we should wait where there is internet coverage and that would be back at Rosslyn Bay Marina. We scudded across the bay in glorious sailing weather, secured a berth for a few hours and did whatever we now need to do and didn’t need to do before internet.

Midday came and the wind was holding. This would be a fast trip! At 2.45 pm  we motored into the bay and, well I’m sure if you are a regular reader you know what happens next. The forecast 15-20 knts South East dropped to less than 3 knts and we motored North on a glassy flat sea.

It was beautiful, and we chugged along as the light faded and we neared the Military Exclusion Zone. It was dark by the time we got there and I contemplated the 30 miles extra we would have to go to miss it. 30 miles doesn’t sound much if you are driving a car, but it’s 6 hours on a boat. Perhaps we could pretend we haven’t heard the warning? The chart showed that this was a dangerous area during exercises and that live rounds were being used. What it didn’t say was that their night practice target would carry the same light configurations as a sailing yacht, be white and curiously yacht shaped in the dark. Eventually I altered course and we made our way towards some curious lights out to sea.

It was difficult to find the edge of the Military Exclusion Zone. For a start, one bit of ocean looks much like another at the best of times. Secondly it was dark so if they had erected any signs we certainly didn’t see them. The Oracle kept telling me that the ETA* of 18 hours I originally had to get to Middle Percy was now 27. That if I kept to this course it would be 35, carry on another hour and it’s 62. When I got to a whopping 87 I thought “Stuff National Security” as I considered my own and realised that there was likely to be a crew mutiny if she saw the display again and that number hadn’t fallen.

The mysterious lights were still to our starboard as we turned to sneak across the corner of the zone. Well, where is the harm? And besides, who would know? There is the combined forces of the American and Australian military, each playing “Mine is Bigger than Yours” but I’ll bet they are too busy looking at the machines that go ping to actually wonder what that particular little ping in the South East corner was.

We slid quietly through the night. The lights we had seen kept changing sequence. Two white, one green. Then the green disappeared. Then it came back. Were they signalling someone? Would at any moment Lisa McClure, blonde hair cutely escaping from under her foraging cap, wearing the uniform that was issued one size to small, suddenly come racing out of the darkness in a Navy RIB and through her loud hailer demand “Australian Navy, Heave two, I am going to board you”. However the pitch darkness offered us nothing.

I was peering towards shore looking for whales, which are presumably excluded from the exclusion zone exclusions, tell tale wakes from passing warships, or worse tell tale tracers from passing shells when Rona screamed “What is that!” I quickly looked to starboard to see an ominous red, fire like object lifting out of the ocean into the jet back night.

What have we unleashed? War of the Worlds? Will this thing rise up on tripod legs and turn its heat ray onto Dreamagic, piercing her deck and melting her valiant heart? Have I listened to Richard Burton narrate Thunderchild^ once to many times in my hazy youth?

I girded my loins. (I have always wanted an excuse to do that in public) and feeling a lot like Capt’n Jack Sparrow about to take on the Kraken one handed readied myself for business. (You remember, Pirates III, I think. Kraken turns up to swallow the ship. Elizabeth Swan snogs Jack and thinking he’s on a winner he doesn’t realise she has handcuffed him to the mast. She then says good luck and gets in the life boat. Bloody Women!)

Hold on!  I have actually seen this before. Three times actually. Not the movie, (OK, as well as the movie), this scene. It’s a tropical moon rise! We’re saved! We watched this optical illusion as the moon, appearing to cling to the ocean like a parting lover, embraces the sea and lifts it up with her until finally she can’t hold on, lets go and rises into the heavens. It is one of the most moving experiences I have ever witnessed.

We motored for a while longer and finally the wind filled enough to get some sail up. The mysterious lights vanished from our starboard only to appear two hours later to our port. Same sequence. Two white and one green, then the void between them was filled in with a Navy Warship which glided past. No Lisa, they obviously didn’t think we were a threat. Or good looking enough.

The wind, having been absent without leave decided to make up for it and blew at 25 knots. However the sea had been so slight it didn’t have time to pick up and we surfed down waves regularly clocking 10 knts on headsail only.

Percy Island turned up on cue at 06.00, the dawn put on a show until 07.00, and Middle Percy made an appearance at 07.45. Perfect!

*ETA. Estimated Time of Arrival for everyone who ran out and joined the AAA after my tirade yesterday.
^Thunderchild. From the album War of Worlds Jeff Wayne

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sailing North: Great Keppel Island (or GKI to us Cruisers)

18th July

Another Bloody Sunset in Paradise Boats at GKI
I loathe acronyms, that’s why I joined the AAA, which surprisingly for those who know me is the not Alcoholics Anonymous of Australia but the Australians Against Acronyms.

We are at GKI having left here in perfect weather and battling the worst the benign Coral Sea could throw at us, steamed into a bare foot skiing flat Keppel Bay. It’s a secluded little anchorage, just us and the 30 other yachts all sailing north. K Mart car park on Christmas Eve has more room.

It is seriously beautiful here though and with the clear blue sky and flat sea, the thoughts of my now sulking Auto Pilot are behind me. I don’t know what it is with Dreamagic instruments but they are like every BMW I have ever owned. If you can get 80% of it working at any one time you feel faintly smug with yourself. I know the instruments are all integrated because they take it in turns to play up. Just when I am about to throw the sounder over the side so that it actually knows where the bottom is, it behaves itself, says “Your it” and the autopilot takes us on a mystery tour of Keppel Island. Bloody Germans! It’s a shame the Japanese haven’t decided to build yachts. They would be boring, but they would work.

Of course the instrument vagaries could be connected with the Military Operation at Shoalwater Bay. Dreamagic’s instruments are made by Raytheon, the company that gave us the Exocet missile and worlds largest supplier of things that go bang in the night. The boys over at Shoalwater have all the new toys and naturally want to play with them. Perhaps they have some sort of jamming device that makes instruments go weird. Just the thing if Australia is ever invaded by feral yachties trying to sneak up the coast in stealth mode at about 5 kts. I think it’s time to wear the tin foil helmet under my sailing cap.

We lowered the dinghy off the new davits and settled down to some lunch. It took about 3 minutes. (The launch, not the lunch) I rather miss the old system of untying the dinghy from the foredeck, throwing it over he side where, like buttered bread it lands upside down, righting it and then dragging it to the stern of the mother ship. Tying it off, undoing the outboard perched precariously on the rail, handing it down to some poor fool sitting in the dinghy who tries to attach it to the transom without, as happened in PNG, dropping it so that it bounces on the rubber float once, then pierces it and falls over the side. Then again, if you put it like that. No, I don’t.

At dusk we took off for sundowners on the beach which is our custom. We enjoyed blue cheese and biscuits and a cheeky Sauvignon Blanc while feeding the sand flies. We then wandered along the strand stopping only to admire the work of a group of yachties who had decorated a tree with all manner of baubles. The things you see when you haven’t got a camera! Sorry. I do know the history of this actually and it was one Christmas when a group of yachties were celebrating Christmas here and set about making a Christmas tree. It is now resplendent with fishing floats, streamers and even a windsurfer.

Back on Dreamagic for a Rona speciality, Tequila Chicken with Salad. We listened to an album of songs from the Second World War era with a final port before an early retire. We have a big day tomorrow.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sailing North: Yeppoon, still.

17th July
Keppel Marina
Rosslyn Bay

We arrived back at Dreamagic on Friday after an eventful week in Brisbane. Certainly the trip down there reminded both of us why we are up here but life can’t be all smooth sailing.

And speaking of smooth sailing, the weather here was overcast and miserable. The wind was blowing at up to 30 knots and the marina is full of cruising boats waiting for a window to continue north. New boats keep appearing, crews dressed as if they are crossing Bass Straight, topsides and transoms bearing the telltale signs of lunches and dinners that have been donated over the rail and back to the sea.

We went to the Yacht Club. Well, what else would you do? Our plan was to leave on Sunday but that was postponed to Monday. The club was to have a Yacht Race leaving on Saturday and BBQ’ing Saturday night at Keppel before racing back Sunday. That was postponed because of the weather so we cooked our steaks, and drank their wine. Friends Mitch and Meg who we met last time we were here joined us, and another Mitch with his son Simon also joined the ever growing table as we made our plans to depart. Capricornia Cruising Yacht Club is without doubt the friendliest club on the East Coast and a “Must Stop” destination.

Rona spent Saturday working here. I busied myself doing boat maintenance and faffing around until lunchtime. We had booked the courtesy Car for the afternoon so drove to Yeppoon and provisioned. Evening back at CCYC. Of course.

Sunday is not a viable departure for us but Monday is looking good. Our plan is to spend a couple of days anchored at Keppel and then head north. Unfortunately the Army has closed Shoalwater Bay so that they can play soldiers with the Americans. All the bays and rivers we would normally use to anchor on the way up are full of soldiers hiding in bushes and shouting “Bang! You’re Dead!” at each other so we have to go around. This means that we have a very big Tuesday night/Wednesday morning sail to get to the nearest next anchorage which not being used as a Cubby House, nearly 200 kms away. Why the Army do this when everyone is heading north is beyond me. If they did it in February they could nuke the place and no one would be there. I suppose July is a better time for the yanks to take their holidays.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sailing North: Yippee Yeppoon

The daybreak came about an hour and a half after we set off. It was blowing WNW and although the weather was beautifully clear it was cold. Besides thermals, coats, beanies, etc we wrapped ourselves in blankets and doonas and let the boat systems drive the boat towards Yeppoon.
Lunch was a beautiful lamb shank stew, (thank you Sarah) snacks and endless cups of tea and coffee saw us through until sundown.
Unfortunately we couldn't sail much today. The wind would come around sufficiently to let us use the jib, then run shy so that we had to put it away again. In and out like a fiddlers elbow until we were tired and agreed no more jib regardless of what the wind did. We motored on sailess, and the wind, having made that deal with us then sat at exactly 36 degrees apparent from our bow, perfect close reach sailing weather.
Another beautiful sunset gave way to a pitch black moonless night. We had some tricky navigating to do around Cape Capricorn with Ship Rock and Hummocky Island to negotiate but the Oracle did her job and they loomed past as even darker shapes in a very dark night.
Rona and I are quite good at these overnighters. Different crews have different methods of keeping watch but we find that a more relaxed attitude towards watch keeping works for us. If you are tired, go to sleep, if you are not, keep watch. By some miracle we slept through most of the danger and at about 4.00am the alarm went off to let us know we were near Yeppoon. Only joking!!!
Actually at about 3.00am we slowed Dreamagic's progress so that we would arrive at about 5.00am. Although I have been into Yeppoon several times and it is well lit, we understood the marina to be full and we although we knew our berth allocation, we didn't know where it was. We motored outside the Marina for about 30 minutes and watched the now very familiar sunrise, congratulated ourselves for making it to the tropics with a glass of port each and went and introduced Dreamagic to Green 72, her home for the next week.
We were so tired that we couldn't sleep. We tidied the boat, read a little, had showers and coffees and wandered aimlessly until about 9.00 when we could finally sleep all day and recover.
In the evening it had to be The capricorn Yacht Club which is without doubt the best club on the east coast of Australia. We took our own steaks to the BBQ, (Free, and they supply the bread and onion) drank their rum and cokes ($4) and wine ($12). We spent the evening chatting with Brendon the Assistant Duty Manager who has 16 children and grandchildren.Every member that came in introduced themselves to us and we promised to come back again before we leave.

And that's it. Dreamagic stays hear now until next Friday when the adventure continues. Thanks to those who read our travels, thanks especially to those who have written with meessages. See you next week!

Capt'n Willi Cinque

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sailing North: Why I wish I had paid more attention in Maths.

6th July 2011
Burnett Heads - Yeppoon
Why I wish I had paid more attention in Maths.

I was born and raised in Sarf London. Not South London, Sarf London. Amongst other life skills, kids learned very quickly how to be self reliant. My parents both worked full time jobs and so from aged 5 I walked to and from Ennersdale Road School on my own. Actually everyone did. A mother turning up at the school gate would have been very novel. Social Networking was talking with your friends on the way to school and back. A neighbour would look after me from 4pm until Mum came and collected me at 6pm. Lewisham, the suburb of Sarf London we lived in had at one time been quite up market, our house had 4 bedrooms, two reception rooms downstairs, a kitchen and a scullery. The original bell pushes ,used to summon the maid were still in the reception rooms. However, like many inner city suburbs, Lewisham had fallen on hard times. With the advent of the car, people had moved to the outer suburbs, away from the smog and congestion. The large houses had been converted to flats and were rented to a largely migrant population who had realised that if the British were generous enough to give British passports to all its Empirical subjects, sitting on the dole in London was preferable to sitting on a beach in Jamaica or Africa and starve. (Interestingly, while these people all wanted to live in England, the English, or at least the wealthy ones were holidaying in their home countries. I suppose the grass is always greener.)
Our school classes were more like a meeting of the United Nations and every nationality was represented in our teacher body. My French teacher for example was a beautiful African American  woman who spoke English with a Southern American drawl. What I didn’t consider was that her French may have been similarly affected. Without knowing that, and having studied studiously for three years thinking I would be very impressive should I ever meet the ten year old equivalent of Bridget Bardot, I was to be extremely humiliated on a school excursion to France in later life. I would have had more luck with Dolly Parton.
Our teacher of Mathematics was Indian. He certainly knew his subject but his delivery was also suspect. One would think that when learning a science, as compared to a language, little could go wrong and certainly I had no inkling of any problems as I graduated to long trousers and Senior School.
The British School system of the day was simple, if a little confusing to outsiders. Top of the pecking order were Public Schools. Contrary to the name these were not actually for the children of the public, well not my parent’s public anyway. These had been founded by merchant bodies or groups of people who were wealthy, but not quite wealthy enough to be able to afford private tutors. Eton and Rugby are well known examples of Public Schools but there are many more, including Haberdasher Askes, founded so that England would never be without well educated haberdashers. You didn’t need to be intelligent to attend, indeed that could be a drawback. You just needed to have been born to rule.
Next came Grammar Schools which is where the bright kids went having passed a single one day examination called the Eleven Plus in primary school. Then came Secondary Modern schools, which were huge establishments that had anything up to 250 children in one year ranging in intellectual ability from Not Quite Bright Enough to Get to Grammar, to By The Time He Graduates He Should be Able to Put his Pants on the Right Way Around.
Labour was the government in power, in the UK very thinly disguised as Communism. The Hammer and Sickle flew over the London County Council building and Political Correctness abounded in the New Order. (There was even a proposal to name every Council Refuse Vehicle or dustcarts as we called them after a prominent African leader until someone suggested that might be an insult). Public Schools were a bastion of class privilege and so the faceless labour powerbrokers set about dismantling them. Legislation was introduced to force Public Schools to take a certain number of ordinary kids and, because there would be no reason for me to write this unless I was one of them, I with 5 other unfortunates from my school missed out on Grammar, which would have been bad enough with my friends enrolled in Secondary Modern, and were given scholarships to Public School.
My first day in my new school proved interesting. We were about as popular as a fart in a phone box. Neither my classmates, the Seniors or the Masters wanted us there and it showed. My father was not a lawyer or a doctor and I was not from an Embassy Official that lived in some far flung part of the British Empire and sent his progeny to be educated at the Old School. My father was a lorry driver, my Mum worked in a Government office and I lived in Lewisham. Later in life I empathised with the black kids in Little Rock, Arkansas who in 1957 were forced into to a white school. In that instance it took 1000 US Paratroopers to quell the riot that subsequently ensued. By 1963 the British Government hadn't learned much from their American cousins. The ideology is great, and I am sure the architects behind these great pieces of social engineering are pure of heart.  I just think it is unfair to expect innocent little kids to be the builders of their vision.
As I recall, Sport was good. These upper class Hooray Henrys were no match for
London Street
kids. They cried when they got tackled and called for their Mummy. English was good, I had the presence of mind to say South with my tounge between my teeth rather than Sarf, but then I always was a quick learner. French, through my earlier studies was OK. But Maths, Oh, Mr Singh, what did you do to me? It’s a Parabola ( , not a Para Bulla. One word, not two. The Master had drawn the shape on the board and asked the class what it was. I, foolishly thinking I might impress my classmates and win their friendship answered. As I uttered the words and heard the sniggering I realised that Maths was not going to be fun. The Master, a Mr Thorpe handled it very well by getting me to come to the front of the class so that he could belittle me and humiliate me in front of the class. Did I know any other useful phrases in Bengali? Learning by Public Humiliation I think it was called. Regardless I certainly learned a useful lesson that day.

Which is why we were up at 4.00am and trying to pick our way in pitch dark through a hole in the sea wall. We have decided to push for Rosslyn Bay in one hit. We were going to spend the night in Gladstone but the high tide over the Narrows, which we need to navigate is not until midday. We would therefore not get far before having to wait another day and get into Rosslyn Bay late Thursday. If we sail through the night, we will be in Rosslyn Bay midday Thursday which gives us time to get the boat cleaned and tidied before flying back to Brisbane on Friday. Good plan last night, not so tempting at 4.00am but go we did.
Having had a few scary moments we finally got out to deep water and I consulted the Oracle while Rona put the kettle on for some tea. I programmed in our waypoint as Rosslyn Bay and The Oracle gave me all the information I needed to get us there. Even the amount of time we will need, 21 hours. So our ETA is in 21 hours time. At 1.00 in the morning. We could have stayed in bed until 10.00am and been there at 7.00am tomorrow. Oh well. At least we are in the deep water channel.  Now comes the tricky bit, I have to tell Rona she could have stayed in bed another 4 hours.

Sailing North: Burnett Heads

5th July 2011
Burnett Heads Boat harbour.

Writing yesterdays blog at sunride
We left Kingfisher Bay at dawn and motor sailed to Bundaberg. We were rewarded for our devotion by a beautiful sunrise. The wind was light but filled during the day and we probably sailed jib only for about 5 hours before it headed and we had to motor. Bundaberg was to be a short stopover so rather than use the Mid Town Marina we opted initially to just anchor in the mouth of the Burnett river. Once on approach though anchorages didn’t exactly jump out at us. Burnett Heads harbour did though so we called them and secured the fuel wharf for the night. What a find this turned out to be! The very old marina has no casual berths, they are mostly liveaboards who don’t appear to have been to sea in years. The manager, Tony was on the fuel wharf to help us with our lines, helped us refuel, showed us the showers and advised us on the local gossip. The Blue Water club has a great view, just across the basin but no food. The Hotel was about 15 minutes away and has great food, and a courtesy bus. And he was right!
I do have a couple of old friends who live near here and I called them on the off chance to see if they could join us for dinner. (I have to stop saying Old Friends. The are younger than me. Friends of long standing.)  Alas, they were in Brisbane.
We visited the very friendly Blue Water Club and had a couple of sundowners before hiking to the hotel. Burnett Heads is tiny and the pub, the IGA, the garage and the take away were the only shops in the High street. The pub had a public bar and a slightly better lounge with only some very regulars propping it up. From the street I could see another bar through the windows, adjacent to the lounge. This turned out to be a large dining room with laid tables. We tied to make a booking. They were fully booked. What! It must seat 60 which would have to be the entire population of the town. We can sit you in the games room off the dining room. We accepted, ordered a very nice bottle of Sav Blanc at $14 and looked at the menu. Tuesday Nights Two for the Price of One. We both had Atlantic Salmon beautifully prepared for less than $10 each. Another bottle of that cheeky little white and we wobbled off home. We have a big day tomorrow by my calculations.

Sailing North: Kingfisher Bay

4th July 2011

Kingfisher Bay. Fraser Island

We left Gary’s Anchorage at first light with the intention of getting to Urangan. One of the problems facing cruisers who need to stay in touch with the world is access to internet. Up the East Coast it is generally good to about two miles offshore, but patches are still not covered.

As we passed Kingfisher Bay we realised that here was a resort, full internet access, we are fully watered and provisioned so why not stay here and spend the $50 we would have spent on  a berth at Urangan on a sundowner at Kingfisher Bay.

We anchored off a superb white sand beach and whiled away the afternoon attending to our chores on the net. At about 4pm we launched the dinghy and made for the resort.

The Sand Bar, Kingfisher Resort
In hindsight, arriving 15 minutes before the low was not the greatest decision. The beach had given way to mud which stretched out about 200 meters from the firm sand. I waded through this like Humphrey Bogart in the African Queen while Rona sat in the dinghy playing her part as Audrey Hepburn. All that was missing were the parasol and the leeches.

Kingfisher resort is highly recommended as a stopover. The “Sand bar” is delightful and the pools looked very inviting. Unfortunately we didn’t have  an anchor with the dinghy and 15 minutes before the low means that in 15 minutes after the low the dinghy will have floated free of its mud berth and be going somewhere exotic without us. Never have I downed a Gin and Tonic so fast, (well that may not be true) before we found ourselves knee deep in mud trying to launch.

Sunset over Kingfisher Bay
On retruring to Dreamagic we found that the SV Amble had anchored behind us. We went over to pay our respects to the couple we had spoken to on the radio and had followed us over Wide bay bar. We met the delightful Brett and Jane aboard their Beneteau 43 and they were kind enough to invite us for tea. They also put us onto which I can heartily recommend to all cruisers, especially if you have an iPhone. It effectively makes our Spot Tracker redundant, and you can see at a glance what other cruisers are near wherever you are. Brilliant website and thanks Jane. Oh, and sorry about the mud.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sailing North: Not all Bars are Fun

3rd July 2011

Last night we spoke with Mick and Marion from the Beneteau YesDear and the owners of another yacht Ambler via radio. We are all anchored in the bay at Double Island and we are all intending to cross tomorrow if the weather is favourable. I must admit that after the last crossing I am not keen to do this again but it does make a lot of sense. We decided to attempt the crossing together so, as high tide was at a respectable 09.38 we raised anchor together and steamed to the designated Waypoint One. (For the story of our previous crossing go to the blog from Wednesday February 16th. )

The procedure to get over the bar is as follows: The Coast Guard gives boats attempting to cross three waypoints. One is outside the bar. The idea is to assemble there and then take a direct route over the bar to Waypoint Two which is at the end of the first leg. Turn to Port on Waypoint Two and then motor to Waypoint Three. At Waypoint Three, turn to Starboard and you should be inside. The whole journey is about two miles and takes about 20 minutes. Easy!

The reality is that it depends on the weather, and keeping a steady nerve. Bad weather will kick the waves up until they are breaking right across the bar. The minimum depth is 5 meters and we need two. Coming down a decent wave could easily drop us the other three meters and we would hit the bottom, with the keel coming up through the boat. The next wave would probably break her.

The other part is nerve. Even in relatively calm water, (like today), the waves steep as the go across the shallows. The helmsman needs to surf the wave, while watching breaking surf just 30 meters ahead. Turn on the waypoint before you over run into the sandbar leaving it to starboard, and then do it all again with waves breaking just to port.

Mick from YesDear draws less then the other two yachts and as he has been over the bar several times, he was happy to go first. We donned Lifejackets and tethers and followed about one nautical mile behind. Ambler followed us at a similar distance.

The crossing was actually not that bad and we all breathed a sigh of relief when safely in deep water inside the bar. Our plan was to get to Urangan but Ambler and YesDear are staying in Gary’s Anchorage tonight. After studying the tides, and knowing what a problem we had coming through the straights last time because of the depth, we decided to join them and leave early on a rising tide to hopefully get to Urangan incident free.

Gary’s anchorage is a beautiful spot although it may be mosquito heaven in summer. The water is so calm that the sky was reflected giving the impression we were flying.

The Oracle, (and sunset over Gary's Anchorage)
The Oracle

I am not one for just buying things. If I buy anything it is usually because I need it. It does the job it’s supposed to do and I don’t really give it another thought. However, sometimes I buy something and think “Wow! This is brilliant!” Unfortunately it doesn’t happen very often, (or maybe I am just becoming cynical and hard to please in my dotage!) I think the last time I bought something that impressed me was my iPhone, nearly two years ago.

I have always been happy with the instrumentation on Dreamagic. I have a sounder to tell me the depth, a log to tell me the speed through the water, a wind meter that lets me know where the wind is coming from and how much we have, and I have an autopilot that steers the boat when I don’t want to. Down below there is a plotter which repeats all the readings that are on deck and has a GPS which tells me where I am. However it is a tiny, monochrome screen so chartwork is very difficult to do and consequently never used for that function.

Sitting on the nav table is my laptop which has a pirate copy of CMap4. I plug a GPS into that and it has successfully navigated me up and down the East Coast of Queensland and to the Louisiades in PNG twice. It’s a nuisance to have to go below to plot a course and then keep going up and down to check it, but hey! It’s exercise and besides, what is the alternative?

Sailing a WAGS on Madeira, a beautiful Jeanneau 54 that Mark Wilson drives I saw his Raymarine plotter. It showed a chart that you could follow from the helm, with all the relevant info from the various instruments relayed. It showed him his position and heading of course, but it also calculated tide direction and drift. That could be extrapolated forward to tell the helmsman what the current would do to the boat a few miles ahead, (or more importantly, whether you will make a mark or not.) A very convincing first place on Madeira was enough to convince me that one of these would make a huge difference to Dreamagic.

The Sanctuary Cove Boat Show was the following week and there was the same unit on the Raymarine Stand with a boat show special price of just over $4000. A bargain!! However at that price I had resolved myself to be ascending and descending the companionway of Dreamagic for a while when Don Cortis, a good mate of mine and owner of the Half Moon Bay Chandlery suggested that the smaller version of the same unit did all the same things and was around $1000. A deal was struck with Don and the unit was delivered. I installed it and connected it to the existing instruments. It’s brilliant! When WAGging I now use it to give some indication of when and where to tack, and our performance has improved because of it. However it’s real benefit became apparent today. Last time we came through the Sandy Straights we would have hit the ground 15 times. The marks are no where near the channels and with the muddy dark brown colour of the water it’s impossible to see shallows. Bearing in mind that for much of the time we are navigating with less than a metre under us even in the favoured spot, it doesn’t take much to touch. The plotter, or as we now call it “The Oracle” shows us where the deep water channels are and we weaved our way through the channels into the anchorage with a new found confidence. It’s fascinating to use and as I get more used to its functions it just gets better!

Sailing North: Away again!

2nd July 2011
Double Island Point

We are finally away! We returned to Mooloolaba yesterday afternoon and readied the boat for sea this morning. Rona’s car is now parked at Mooloolaba and we’ll have to rescue that fro Brisbane when we get back but it’sa small price to pay for finally getting going.

7.30 this morning we motored out of the marina and set for a jib only run to Double Island. Whether we sail the outside to Yeppoon (230nms) or over the dreaded Wide Bay Bar is still in debate .Inside is risking the yacht over that god forsaken bar that I have always had problems with. Outside is 40 hours plus without sleep and with whales as company. A difficult call but what we can do is stop at Double Island Point for the night and get a run at it in the morning.

We are sailing in very loose company with a Beneteau 470 called Yesdear, a catamaran and another Mono called Ambler. I say loose company because we left before them but I could hear them on the radio and I know that their intentions are to anchor at Double Island and then cross the bar tomorrow.

The sail up was perfect. 7knts with a following sea and a wind at about 160 degrees. A dolphin joined us early on, but with an overcast sky there wasn’t much else to do but enjoy the motion, drink tea, and watch a whale.

Yes! No more than 2 boat lengths off our port side a female whale surfaced. Travelling the same direction as us we were actually overtaking her and I am sure she came up to see what we were doing. We kept our course and she kept hers and we sailed on leaving her behind.

A rainbow over Rainbow beach
Just off Double Island a pod of dolphins played around the boat for a while until we turned right and dowsed the sail before anchoring in the bay. The weather closed and we were treated to a Rainbow over Rainbow Beach before settling down to our first night at sea.

The importance of a good Chandler.

A boat is a dynamic, living thing. It relies on a myriad of people and processes to make it work. One needs an electrician, a mechanic, a rigger, a sailmaker, a very friendly bank manager, a very understanding partner, friends who understand the enormity of the task of keeping it going and are prepared to lend a hand. And you need a good chandler.

Last night we had a Boeuf Bourgogne, the night before we had Lamb Shanks. On Dreamagic we have always taken pride in the quality of our food but at the moment we are living very well indeed! And the reason for the gastronomic feast is quite simply an excellent Chandler. In our case that well known dish, Sarah Chandler who supplied frozen gourmet dishes for our journey north. Just heat and eat, they are fantastic. Well done Sarah, and thank you! If anyone else is looking to make an extended voyage and wants Sarah to provision, let me know and I will put you in touch.