Arrived in Mackay
We got to the pass through the barrier reef at about 8:30 pm. The lights at the entrance were clear and bright, which was helpful because it was dark and we could not see the reef, so going through on GPS alone would have been daunting. As it was, we rounded the marker buoy into the pass and discovered that the 25 knot wind in our face and the 6 knot tide from behind (ie classic wind over tide conditions) made for some very unpleasant waves which persisted for the first 20 miles of the pass. We have been through a lot stronger winds before, but never having to crash through such short waves, continually blinded by the spray coming over the bows.
My initial plan had been to sail down the pass, but the current was pushing us strongly to one side and we did not have a good enough wind angle to maintain a course under sail, so after a few minutes we turned on the engines, only to find that one of them had a problem and had to be shut down. There followed a nerve racking half hour working our way along the reef at the entrance, with a single engine having to push us at 45% to the direction we wanted to travel in order to overcome the current and waves that were pushing us back onto the reef.
After a couple of hours we were through the reef and everything quietened down. We saw a couple of whale spouts on the way but no big whale displays, unlike like the later boats who got pictures of humpback whales leaping out of the water. Apparently we will get to see whales later, because as we work up the coast they become more frequent to the point where it is more a question of trying to avoid hitting them.
Anyway, we have been moored in Mackay marina for a couple of days now, resting after the passage. Our new addition to the crew, niece Emily, arrived on schedule after a gruelling bus tour of the US and flight to Brisbane/Mackay from LA. It only took her a day to get over the jet lag and she is already establishing her place in the ranks of "ARC yoof". (Shows more stamina for partying than Bertie and Estella and quite as capable as Daniel of lying in bed beyond midday).
Today was the prize giving barbecue. Not expecting any prizes, we were surprised to win the competition for guessing your own arrival time. I had forgotten what time we put down, but apparently we crossed the finish line 8 minutes after we predicted we would. It was obviously a good job that we were becalmed for six hours on day 2 or we would have missed out on that prize. The most appreciated aspect of the prize giving was the open bar which was enjoyed by all (and over-enjoyed by a few).
Tomorrow we go on a tour of the area surrounding Mackay. One nature reserve we will visit is reckoned to be the best place in Australia to see platypus in their natural surroundings, so fingers crossed we see some and get some pictures.