Thu 10 Sep 2015 08:32
Yes we are still 'at sea'!
Apologies for no blog since we arrived in Brisbane. The first 6+ months were spent at Rivergate Marina under the Gateway Bridge in the Brisbane River, boat jobs on-going which culminated in the mast being craned out of the boat to be completely re-furbished, re- rigged and re-painted - a huge job in time and money.
We eventually set sail 20th May and headed North, first stop was Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast where a few extra boat repairs reared their ugly heads along with strong wind warnings. The trade wind season had well and truly kicked in with 20-30 knot South Easterlies and with the next leg of the journey being the notorious Great Sandy Straits off Fraser Island we had to sit it out until the wind dropped and the infamous sandbar became 'benign' (in the word's of the Voluntary Marine Rescue Service!). it was a very scary experience negotiating the narrow passages and shifting sands of the Great Sandy Straits and one we decided we would not repeat unless we had to!
We followed the Queensland Coast North with some great downwind day sailing, sheltering from the wild battering winds when they got a bit over-strong in the Marina's of Bundaberg, Gladstone, Mackay and Rosslyn Bay. After Rosslyn Bay the islands really begin so we day sailed and island hopped over-nighting in a variety of scenically beautiful but rolly anchorages (there are very few swell free anchorages until you get to the Whitsundays proper).
We have been treated to Humpback Whale sightings throughout the whole of our journey, however many times you have been lucky enough to see them it is still an enormous privilege when one of these leviathans of the deep surfaces near the boat. Many of them had babies swimming next to them. The Queensland Government census shows a very healthy increase in Humpback Whale numbers and as of August had clocked 23,000 - what we couldn;t understand is how they counted them???
Our first stop in the Whitsunday's was Cid Harbour - how appropriate, shame the Aussies can't spell! Cid Harbour is a popular stopping point for the Charter Yachts as it is totally sheltered, so we spent a lovely non-rolly night and next day climbed to the top of Whitsunday Peak to enjoy a 360 panoramic view of the gorgeous Whitsundays..
We spent the next month day sailing visiting the islands of Hook, Whitsunday, Hayman, Langford, Haslewood and South Molle and making regular trips to Airlee Beach for provisioning and nightlife and for Syd to ogle the young Scandinavian backpackers who for some reason all seemed to be female! Where were the young men?????
The weather and winds were unpredictable during the whole of our stay but we managed a trip to the Outer Reef where we were sadly not so surprised to find a lot of reef damage but it was great to have snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef at last.
7th August saw Airlee Race Week and the racing yacht Dekadence (Facebook page Dekadence d46 Racing) that was berthed near us at Rivergate Marina arrived along with owners and crew. Syd had regularly raced with them from Brisbane and they had asked him to join them to crew for the week. The week started, the wind died (first time since we left), the sun shone and the sea was glassy (perfect weather unless you are sailing!). The wind did pick up enough during the week to make for some good sailing and the live music and partying after made for a brilliant week. I even got to go along as ballast on the rail on the last day and wow what an experience.
Dekadence left for Hamilton Race Week, we stocked up for our journey South and joined them for one final last party on Hamilton Island. So nursing very bad heads we upped anchor and with some unexpected Northerlies forecasted we began the long slog South.
Winds were light so we cracked on and got to the Percy Islands where we spent a wonderful few days relaxing on beautiful Middle Percy Island. We over-nighted the next leg to the Keppel Islands with no wind, a glassy sea and full moon, gorgeous but not fuel efficient! Then after another few days of heavy drinking with friends we had met on our travels, we day sailed to Cape Caricorn then made the impromptu decision to go out to Lady Musgrove Island on the Southern end of the Outer Reef where we spent a few days relaxing in the peace, tranquility and crystal clear water of the lagoon.
We arrived in Bundaberg a week ago and are now busy with boat jobs and cleaning as Gaviota is being hauled out of the water 28th September to spend the next 7+ months in a hurricane cradle on the hardstand. Bundaberg is technically out of the 'cyclone belt' so insurable.
The next 'sailing adventure' is not with Gaviota but on an Atlantic 47 Catamaran 'Bob' owned by a good friend of ours. We are joining him and his partner to take 'Bob' across the Pacific - again, but this time starting in Chile and sailing to Easter Island, Pitcairn, the Gambiers and Australs and with us leaving the boat in Tahiti from where we fly back to Bundaberg to get Gaviota back into the water, sail up to Darwin and begin our Indonesian, Malaysian adventure to Thailand. The blog will be back . . . . . . .
Summary and Surprises
The weather - We were not expecting the wind to be so cold!!!!! The Southern trade winds blow straight from Antartica and they are cold. We were sailing in full oilskins most of the time!
The sea - Cold - so cold that Syd hardly ventured in and we both wore wetsuits and rash vests.
The Whitsundays are all National Park, all the islands we visited were pristinely clean, there is absolutely no rubbish and inland paths are maintained to a really high standard.
The birds are so noisy. It was the first thing I noticed when we arrived in Brisbane. Like everything in Australia the birds are big and so are their voices. It is a twitters paradise, so much so that Syd and I got really excited at our first sighting of a black cockatoo.
The Aussie people are wonderful, people are so helpful. In Mackay Marina a lovely guy called Chuck (we had only met him the day before) spent his day off work driving us round all the industrial estates in Mackay so Syd could get some boat parts then pushed a trolley round the supermarket so we could stock up for the next leg of the journey. Everywhere people have been fantastic.
Australia gets the number one award for public conveniences, they are everywhere, clean and always have bog paper! Also all the swimming beaches have freshwater showers, luxury!
Australia is a big big country with big hearted people, we are looking forward to being back in May meeting up with old friends and getting to meet new ones and seeing a tiny bit more of this amazing country.