All In Just One Day!

Mike and Liz Downing
Wed 10 Jul 2013 10:58
What did we write yesterday - we'll continue overnight, whales or no whales. Well, as if to say, hey, we really are still around, we were gobsmacked to see 2 whales in the bay today, coming so close as they leisurely swam between us and one of the other 2 boats here at anchor, blowing and diving with flukes in the air as they went down. They stayed in the bay for a good 20 minutes before slowly making their way out to sea. An hour or 2 before that a huge turtle had surfaced close to the boat and had a good look round before diving down. And, if that wasn't enough, while working on deck putting the dinghy away, a manta ray, at least 6ft across, swam close to the boat and stayed on the surface swimming up and down past us for a good hour. We could just look down on it as it went past with its wings breaking the surface as it swam. We haven't seen wildlife like this for a long time. This is appears to be a good place for it. It's quite isolated and unless on passage like ourselves it is unlikely that many boats would stop here.

The island has only one bay. It's actually called Refuge Bay and it's U-shaped with the opening facing northwest, so totally protected from the predominant southeast wind, but not quite. The hills all around the bay are high, about 1,000ft, so apart from the opening it's totally surrounded. There's no wind and the water is flat calm, and then you hear it coming, louder and louder, like a jet aircraft approaching. The water begins to boil and the boat takes off as a wind bullet of 25 to 30kts, probably more, rushes down the hillside across the water and hits the boat at water level. It lasts about 10-15 seconds, causing the boat to spin and stretch the rope snubber to it's limit, then it's gone and there's nothing again except peace and quiet. They come with varying frequency, sometimes every few minutes and at others perhaps every 15 minutes or longer. When we arrived, completely oblivious to the bullets (although we've encountered them before in high sided terrain like this, so should have expected it) we anchored in the middle of the bay, the worst place for the bullets. Today we moved over to one side. We still get them, but the impact is not so bad. So even apparently perfect anchorages have their faults. And, with it's picturesque turquoise water and green tree-clad slopes, it does appear perfect here.

Made the mistake back in Gladstone marina of pumping the new dinghy up and putting it on the davits. Being quite a bit bigger than our old one and having floorboards to assemble, it's easier to do it ashore. We thought we would only be day sailing and would use it at the anchorages we expected to visit. However, so far we've got in too late and been moving every day, so haven't used it and in the big seas and rolling yesterday night it was a bit of a liability. Also, during the night passage, the flat fender that stops it rubbing on the hydrovane came out of position and it was only the new dinghy cover that Liz made that protected the tubes. That part of the cover was actually in shreds and we feared the tubes would be well worn through. But when checking today it all looked okay, so we were lucky. As these high winds are set to continue for days and we do want to move on, the dinghy had to be deflated, taken apart and put back on deck. Not so easy doing it on deck, and with wind bullets threatening to blow it away! But after 2 hours it was all done and lashed down.

Considering this is the tropics, it's still not that warm. It's pleasant enough, but it's not hot. Sundowners are still more likely to be a hot chocolate than a cold beer! Wonder how far north we will have to get before we actually feel like we're back in the tropics.

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