Back on high seas
Tue 17 May 2016 01:34
BUNDABERG TO PANCAKE CREEK TO GREAT kEPPEL ISLAND TO SOUTH PERCY ISLAND TO THE WHITSUNDAYS
Thursday14th April 2016
We arrived back Down Under with a feeling of trepidation as to what we would find . . . . Gaviota had been left on the hardstand at Bundaberg Port Marina for the past 6 months. Some friends had checked on her 3 weeks after we left and found that rats had chewed through the mosquito screen on a tiny window in the cockpit we had very foolishly left open for ventilation! Traps were laid and the rodent man called in but no bodies were found, so we had no idea what damage had been done and if the rats were still on board.
We spent the first jetlagged night back on Gaviota on the hardstand and were woken at 6.30am with the boatyard wanting to get us back in the water. All went smoothly and we were gently hoisted into the water and spent the next week cleaning and searching out rat damage, getting sails back up, putting solar panels and wind generator back on and sorting out the obvious problems - the main one being the electric cables which had been chewed through!
With enough done to leave the Marina we headed up the Burnett River to the town of Bundaberg and anchored out, continuing with boat repairs and stocking up with food for the journey.
On our first morning there Syd (unbeknown to me) had slipped back into his 'Mick Dundee' guise and instead of wrestling crocs had set about doing battle with a large snake which had coiled itself up under MY seat in the cockpit!! He valiantly did battle with a squeegee on a pole and managed to hurl the snake out of the boat - unfortunately it landed in the dinghy so battle continued there and finally the snake was squeegeed into the fast flowing Burnett River (this was all before breakfast!). The snake theme continued a few days later with my own slithery encounter on the wooden boardwalk beside the river. I was walking along enjoying the sunshine and did not see a large snake lying across the boardwalk sunning itself, it awoke with a start and slithered at full speed across my foot and hurled itself off the boardwalk into the bush below landing with a crash (luckily no-one was down there!) Aside from snakes, weather was the other hazard as strong wind warnings were in place so a week later with the boat more or less sorted and fully provisioned we headed back down the river and left at dawn to head North.
The wind had blown itself out and we motor sailed the first 65 miles to Pancake Creek where we overnighted leaving at dawn once again, hoping to make Great Keppel. It was totally windless so we motored on a glassy sea on a hot sunny day reaching the lovely anchorage on the South side of Great Keppel. The following day we had a day off and enjoyed the calm weather and sun. All the motoring meant we were rapidly running out of fuel so the following day it was into Rosslyn Bay Boat Harbour for fuel and water then back out to Great Keppel (North side), where we had a catch up with some good friends who were there. Then it was an early night as we planned to leave at 2.00am! Set off at 2.00am motor sailing on a moonless night (thank God for electronic charts!), dawn arrived and the wind picked up so we set the sails – wing on wing and had a nice fast run in 25 knot winds up to South Percy where we arrived at dusk. The anchorage was very rolly so we decided on another dawn start – problem!!!!! The throttle cable had snapped! First thought was rats but on looking closely it was wear and tear! On asking what we were going to do Syd (ingenious as ever) said he would set up up a ‘jury rig’????? Visions of a John Grisham novel came to mind where the murderer nobbles the jury but no, this particular ‘jury rig’ consisted of a piece of thin rope attached to the throttle lever on the engine and fed through a window so it could be pulled from the helm and hey presto we had a very efficient working throttle.
Plans had to change and we headed for Mackay Marina where we knew we could get boat spares. Another windless motor and we arrived just before dark, having organized a car for the next (Saturday) morning to hunt out a new throttle cable. Mackay has the friendliest, most helpful people we have come across and as we had stayed there on our last trip up we had met a lot of people, so finding what we wanted was easy and next day we got a new throttle cable and re-provisioned, once Syd had fitted the new cable we then spent the rest of the time catching up with lovely friends.
We left Mackay at dawn on Monday, 9th May on yet another windless day (so windless was it that Syd managed to mark up the anchor chain on the way – a job that had got forgotten before we left) and we motored on to The Whitsundays where we arrived earlier than expected. The sea was glassy and the sun shone so we headed through the Solway Passage and anchored off beautiful Whitehaven beach in time for a late afternoon swim (cut a bit short when Syd thought he spotted a croc snout which thankfully turned out to be a turtle!). Woke up and breakfasted watching the turtles (not crocs!) surfacing, then swam into the beach and had a walk. Weather was forecasted to change with winds reaching up to 25 knots for early next morning so we motored round to the safety of Cid Harbour.