Heading North - Day Four - Arrived Gladstone 23 49.969S 151 14.705E

Mike and Liz Downing
Sat 29 Jun 2013 13:46
A fourth night at sea and the whole of today and we arrived here at Gladstone at 20.30 this evening. A passage of almost exactly 4 days with a total distance of 496 miles. So one of our slower passages, but we achieved our objective which was to get north of Fraser Island. >From here on it should be more like trade wind sailing with the southeast winds predominating. As a result there should be a lot less risk of getting stuck somewhere for days by bad weather, which was always the risk further south. Also the coast from here until Cape York (a 1000 miles north right at the top of Australia) provides a lot more opportunity for anchorages with lots of Islands between the coast and the Great Barrier Reef. So most people day sail the whole way, stopping at a new location each night. That will be a nice change. Night sailing is fascinating, but with it being the whale migration season, and having seen pods off Coffs Harbour, we were a little concerned about hitting a sleeping whale. We deliberately kept further offshore to reduce the risk (advice from one of the whale watching boat skippers at Coffs).
The tropic of Capricorn is a mere 30 miles further north and it is most definitely warmer this evening. Gladstone is about 85 miles north of Bundaberg, where we arrived in Australia, so it's the furthest north we've been so far. Once past Fraser Island there are a number of places we could have stopped, the most notable being the coral cay of Lady Musgrave, right at the southern end of the Great Barrier reef. It's supposed to be a lovely spot with good snorkeling, but not a good place to be in bad weather. They are currently forecasting the possibility of 30+kts tomorrow and Monday. (It's a good example of the uncertainty of the weather here as the forecasts today have been saying that a new low is expected to be formed off the southern Queensland coast (Brisbane area), but they are uncertain which direction it will eventually go in.)  So Lady Musgrave is not to be (and it's still too cold for us to seriously consider swimming) and as we need to service the engine and do a few things where access to a town is needed, Gladstone, with a new marina in the middle of the town seemed like a good idea. It's major drawback is the long channel to get in - motoring for about 15 miles and most of it against the tide. After entering Coffs Harbour in the dark, we decided that it's better to wait out at sea and come in in the morning. However, due to the strong wind warning for tomorrow, and as the wind had dropped out completely this evening, we decided it would be easier to get in tonight. Gladstone is a huge port with ships and docks everywhere. Navigating through the maze of lights to get to the marina, and finding our berth (again allocated by phone - the marina staff went home hours ago) was quite an achievement! Gladstone is another industrial city based on coal, like Newcastle, but the port appears to be bigger with a more docks . We passed 28 huge ships at anchor on the way in, all waiting to come in and load up.   
Its been quite hard physical work sailing the boat this passage - with the changing winds there's been lots of sail changes during the day and night. Ocean passages can be a lot easier as you might not have to change sails for days. That's one of the attractions of the tradewinds. However, we did see quite a lot of wildlife this time. Those dolphins that had stayed with us for 30 minutes when updating this yesterday, actually stayed for another 2 1/2 hours! That's a record for us. To see them jump out of the water, and so close to the boat, was quite something. Tomorrow will be a day of rest, apart from washing the boat down to get rid of all the drying salt that's everywhere, even on top of the bimini and solar panels (had quite a lot of spray breaking over the boat, particularly today with strong winds this morning), getting the boat back from it's long passage arrangements to normal living and pumping up and putting the dinghy back together again. So probably not much of a rest at all!