Hamilton Island to Cairns 20th June -16th July

We left Hamilton Island still in quite a strong wind and decided to go back to Port of Airlie marina rather than anchor off and dinghy in ,the lazy option ! We had to collect a new Raymarine display dial as more were going black this year and it would be cheaper to provision here than on Hamilton Island.

cockatoos Hamilton island atop golf cart

We left the marina on 22nd July and headed north west towards Edgecombe Bay, we were trying to avoid overnight sailing if possible on this trip and indeed we had the time and there are plenty of anchorages.  We transited Gloucester Passage to gain the anchorage luckily at high tide as it was rather shallower than we had expected so luck was on our side again. It was a quiet night so the routine of cocktails in the cockpit followed by supper and a DVD was easily accomplished. The next day was a 40nm mile run to Cape Upstart a very high peninsula around the back of which we presumed would be a sheltered anchorage but we were wrong. We spent some time going up and down in search of a quiet spot but there were none, so we picked the best we could and had quite a noisy night with the wind blowing and the waves slapping. Once we left the next morning to our surprise we found ourselves in the wind shadow of this high cape for quite a long time although it had eluded us at anchor!

The wind was quite strong about 25knots and the swell picked up but downwind it was manageable with jib alone and we made good progress to the next stop Cape Bowling Green. This was a complete geographical contrast to Cape upstart as it was long cape of very flat land so we did not expect much shelter from the wind but hoped for calmer waters behind the cape.  Our expectation was not realised and as we went further and further into Bowling Green Bay the  wind and waves remained unabated. As usual the  water was shallow and even when we reached a possible anchorage well into the bay we seemed to be in the middle of nowhere as the land around was so low it was almost invisible. So with no prospect of shelter we decided to continue to Magnetic Island just off the coast of Townsville to seek a calmer anchorage. We made good speed and it was a moonlit night so we arrived to the welcome peace of Horseshoe Bay on the north side of the island at 21.30. There were about twenty other boats there in the recommended SE corner but enough space for all. After dodging an unlit boat we anchored and had a quiet night.

Townsville view from Castle hill with magnetic island in the distance.

After a quiet day at anchor in Horseshoe Bay we needed to go to Townsville marina to get the new Raytheon display unit fitted and operational and we had also noticed our AIS ( automatic identification system ) was not working, we could see other boats but they could not see us. We had confirmed our suspicions by asking a commercial vessel to check if they could see us and they could not. Luckily Townsville seemed to have all marine services available and The Breakwater Marina there was very pleasant and we had both problems fixed in one day .Interestingly the problem with the AIS was corrosion of the wires at the stern carrying the GPS signal!  Despite being protected by plastic coating their position at the stern of the boat in the destructive marine environment had been too much for them over the last eighteen years.  We took advantage of our time there to drive around Townsville and go up Castle hill which overlooks city and almost divides it into two. We had a splendid view over the sea towards Magnetic Island.

We returned to Magnetic island the following day and enjoyed a few days there hiking and swimming and even stand up paddle boarding. It was warm sunny weather and we used the solar panel charging device that Henry had given us to charge our phoned and i-pads with great success. This could prove very useful in the event of electrical failure as we would still be able to charge the i-pad for navigation. So we immediately felt more secure!

solar phone charger

Arthur beach Magnetic island

There is an old Second World War fort on the island built to look out for the Japanese coming by sea, in fact they never did, but the old buildings and gun posts have been preserved and are interesting to look at and realise the difficult conditions the soldiers had to work in there. We saw two wild koala bears on this walk as there are a large number of wild bears in this particular area.

“Wild” Kaola

Wader

It is never long before another problem arrives on a boat and this time it was the generator that stopped. We spent a beautiful sunny day diagnosing the problem ourselves and finally discovered it was the sea water flow sensor, again very badly corroded .John removed it and the generator worked perfectly but clearly this was not safe in the long term so it was back to Breakwater Marina on 4th July for the Cummins expert to help out. In addition to the corroded sensor corrosion had attacked  several important wires which needed  to be replaced as well as the flow sensor . We found ourselves significantly poorer the next day but we did have a working generator.  Repairs are expensive in Australia but they are done well and professionally.

We left from the Townsville Marina on 6th July and continued north for the final push to Cairns. There was no wind so we had to motor to Juno bay Fantome Island in the Palm island group which was  beautiful and a perfect anchorage in the non- existent wind but would have been a different story in an established SE trade .

We had planned  to navigate the Hitchinbrook narrows a channel between the dramatic Hitchinbrook island and the main land but in order to enter we had  to cross a sandbar in Lucinda the small town at the southern end of the narrows .As previously mentioned we had  been moving up the coast under the watchful eye of the Volunteer Marine Reserve contacting them daily with our progress and sailing intentions. This morning before entering the narrows which we knew we could only do on a rising tide we were warned by the VMR against attempting to cross the moving sandbar. Of course it is all on the  charts but as the bar moves every year they could not possibly be accurate so we sailed up the sea side of Hitchinbrook island which was  disappointing but at least safe and  the mountains were certainly dramatic on this the second windless day. We had intended to anchor at the northern end of the narrows anyway and as the strong SE winds were returning, they don’t stay away for long, we found a well sheltered anchorage just off Hecate point and stayed for the next  day as well as there was a strong wind warning. The weather forecast in Australia is very accurate and broadcast twice daily on the VHF radio by each VMR station along the coast which is very reassuring.

We sailed off again on 9th July to our next chosen spot Mourilyan harbour another small sugar port with a very narrow entrance flanked on each side by two peaks Hilda and George. Although the peaks are easily seen the narrow entrance is invisible until you are opposite it. There were several boats at anchor and as usual the water was very shallow and in addition there were many mooring buoys which we had to avoid. So finding a suitable spot was even more difficult than usual but we did but only after one unsuccessful attempt. The tide was strong and the wind weak inside the harbour so predicting the final resting place of the boat which would sit  mainly to the tide is not very easy. We ended up rather too close to a couple of other boats but hoping we would all swing in unison with the tide we stayed put and all was well.

We now had only one more stop before Cairns and we had a good sail under jib alone down wind and made good progress towards Fitzroy Island a popular tourist island near Cairns.  It was a sunny day but on arrival at Fitzroy it did not seem that sheltered and there were several yachts already anchored there so we took the second anchorage choice in Mission bay a little further around the coast. The wind was blowing strongly but we had at least lost the swell on rounding the cape but as usual it was difficult for us to get far enough in because of the depth to really get shelter from the wind. We were obviously getting braver as we left only 0.7m under the keel at low tide .

The next morning it was round to Bluewater Marina which again we had to enter in as high a tide as possible to get up a mangrove creek. We had the usual friendly Australian welcome with someone to help with the lines and we were once again safely tied up. We set to work packing the boat up for the six weeks stay there and luckily had a couple of days spare to explore Cairns and the Atherton tablelands.

Cairns waterfront at low tide

Another view of Cairns waterfront

Crocodile Warning on the waterfront!

Descending from the Atherton table land

Tropical Rain forest Butterfly- Name??

We left on 16th July hoping to return for the final leg to Singapore in mid-September.

Apologies for the paucity of photographs but we lost our camera in Magnetic island.

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Cruising the Whitsunday Islands, Queensland ,Australia 31st May to 17th June 2018

The Whitsunday Islands were named by Captain Cook who thought he passed them on Whitsunday 1770 , although it was in fact the day after but nevertheless the name has stuck . They lie off the Queensland Coast and are the partially drowned Cumberland Mountain range but provide a spectacular cruising ground with an enormous choice of beautiful anchorages, beaches, reefs and hikes …a real cruising mecca.

Jane Houng joined us for our initial exploration but her arrival was greeted by a blocked forward heads which proved annoying but manageable and we did not want to delay our cruise to fix it as Jane had only a short holiday with us.

Janes’s arrival on the Spirit of Queensland from Cairns

So on Friday 1st June we sailed over to our first anchorage in Nara Inlet on the south of Hook Island which is one of two deep fiords on that coast and very beautiful .The water was flat and the fiord sheltered so we got the dinghy in the water and had a look at the coral .For the next three days we moved to new anchorages around the coasts of Hook Island and Whitsunday Island ; Butterfly Bay, Stonehaven, and Sawmill bay. The wind was in the prevailing direction from the south east so it was impossible to go to the eastern side of the islands.  We did try one morning leaving Butterfly Bay but once out of the lee of the land both the wind and the waves picked up seriously so heading into both became too uncomfortable.  We retreated quickly back to the sheltered side and headed for Stonehaven which was well sheltered. Every  anchorage was lovely with beaches and walks and sometimes clear water although the coral was a little disappointing.

The next day we moved to Sawmill bay where we attempted the hike to the Whitsunday peak but were beaten by the falling light, it gets dark at 17.30 in Queensland so as late starters the light often runs out.

 

Jane near the top of Whitsunday island peak.

Dugong Beach Sawmill bay

Sadly Jane had to return to Hong Kong on 7th June so we sailed back to Airlie Beach on Tuesday 5th June a lovely sail across in a good wind and flat sea. Jane left by train from Proserpine the next day but it had been a very enjoyable few days.

Now it was back to work for us and the first problem was unblocking the heads! Not surprisingly it proved rather difficult to find help as it is not a job anyone is rushing to do. A very kind boat neighbour had tried before we left but without success. After a few fruitless phone calls John tried the personal approach and prevailed upon a very kind man from the workshop in Abell Point Marina to come and help us.  John gave him the story of our voyage so far and as he also dreamt of a circumnavigation himself he took pity on us and with the help of a high pressure hose and a blocking device the pipe unblocked much to our delight.  We were expecting Malcolm and Glynis Gibson,our partners for the Pacific crossing ,to join us and so we really needed two functioning heads for their visit . We sent an immediate message to them with the good news and they booked their flights to come and join us. Boat problems never come singly so the next problem was one of the fridges was not working to full capacity and knowing that cold beer and gin and tonic with ice would be a high priority on the next Whitsunday Cruise repairing that had to be dealt with. Luckily the fridge just needed a top up of gas which is what we had suspected and that was easily done .After provisioning to fill the newly cold fridge we left for Hamilton Island to meet our next visitors on Sunday 10th June .

Tides are a significant feature of Whitsunday cruising so moving about  needs planning to use them to their best advantage . We stayed one night en route to Hamilton to get this  advantage and we anchored off Long Island in Happy  Bay  but sadly it had seen happier days as there was a deserted resort on the island which did not look very happy now . We went ashore the next day while waiting for the tide which favourably coincided with the arrival of Malcolm and Glynis’s flight and met the caretaker there who told us we could not go into  the empty resort, but we had a walk and a swim . We then motored the few miles to Hamilton Island and docked in the marina there in perfect time to meet the flight .We were then quickly away to a nearby anchorage but not before Malcolm had bought a large box of beer obviously worried we might not have enough! This brought back memories of the large number of cartons of chateau Clos he bought for the pacific crossing which we kept finding hidden in the boat for a long time afterwards!  We had a beautiful calm evening so plenty of time to catch up on our latest stories. Luckily for the next few days the wind was from the north west so we could explore anchorages that had been impossible the previous week with Jane so the next day we moved to Chance Bay on Whitsunday island  from where we could walk to   Whitehaven Bay, a magnificent beach with the finest sand I have ever run through my fingers .It stretched for miles and once the tourist boat had collected most of the people on the beach it was quite  deserted. We wandered in admiration along the shoreline stunned by the enormous expanse of sand which seemed to reach infinity, we had a quick swim before walking back .

north end of Whitehaven beach

Whitehaven beach with very soft white sand which stretches for miles.

On mooring buoy in Tongue Bay

The next day’s excursion was to Tongue Bay as we were still able to stay on the eastern side of Whitsunday Island and there was another walk where we could view the magnificent sand of Whitehaven from a height which gave us a different perspective of the geography. Our evening entertainment on both cruises was Bananagram a fast version of scrabble which proved very popular and enjoyable with all our visitors .

Grass trees on several islands

Grass tree in flower

We continued to Border Island a little further north and this time sheltered from the south east as the weather looked as if it was going to change  but it was another lovely anchorage with a walk to the top of the hill which was a little rougher than the ones on Whitsunday island but the views made it all worthwhile.

view from top Border island

Time was drawing to a close and we had to return to Hamilton Island so we had our  last night in Macona Inlet the other fiord on the south of Hook Island and the next morning our plans for a final swim were jettisoned as the sky was cloudy and the cool south east wind was back . We had quite a rough trip back to Hamilton Island with the wind and the tides upsetting the millpond seas we had grown accustomed to over the last  few days.

Hamilton island from afar. Tower blocks!

It was farewell time again as Malcolm and Glynis left for the airport but we felt we had done justice to the Whitsunday Islands with our two cruises and there had certainly been no disappointments. The wind continued to pick up during the afternoon and our dislike of manoeuvring in small spaces in strong cross winds made a longer stay in the marina seem a good option.

Whitsunday sunset

whitsunday sunset a few minutes later

Visitors

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Keppel Island to Airlie Beach

We left Baringo in Rosslyn Bay, at Keppel Bay Marina, and went to Hong Kong for a short unscheduled visit  which was of course busy but fun I returned  to the boat on Tuesday 15th May and John arrived a week later after doing some work in Beijing. We left the marina the next day Tuesday 22nd May and sailed a couple of hours over to Keppel North, the island just north of Keppel island where we had anchored before. We anchored there to make the final preparations for the forthcoming voyage  north .We knew the weather was going to deteriorate so planned to sit this out off South Percy island a recommended trade wind anchorage . The Alan Lucas pilot book of the Queensland coast is excellent, very detailed and with lots of drawings of the islands and their anchorages so an invaluable companion.

View of Keppel Bay marina

Rosslyn bay beach

evening time at Keppel Bay marina

Anchorage at Keppel North island

We left the next morning at 06.00 as we had 47nm to cover to the next night stop either Pearl Bay or Island Head Creek a little further north .This latter had been highly recommended by a Queensland coast sailor we had met on the pontoon, so we favoured that one as possible .We had good wind and jibed our way up the coast with 25 knots of wind behind and it was not too rough as the previous few days had been quite calm. We passed Pearl Bay mid-afternoon as we had made good time and tried to enter Island Head Creek. There were sand banks and rocks either side of the passage and no marker buoys to guide us so after a near miss with a sandbank we found some deep water to get further down the creek where we could see other boats anchored but they were mainly small motor boats rather than  yachts .Some seemed to be uncomfortably close to a visible sandbank so we tried to anchor off the beach in a recommended site but between the tide and wind the chain was going under the boat rather than in front so we decided to give up here and hurry back to Pearl Bay .We followed our route out which was as nerve wracking as the journey in and decided estuaries are not really suitable for us. We just made pearl Bay with the last of the sun’s rays and had a quiet night there thankfully.

The next day was another 06.00 start but the weather had changed and the sky was full of darker clouds so we knew the bad weather was on the way as forecast. We started with an easterly wind so  for our north westerly course we needed the main sail but as the wind strengthened, became more south easterly and the rain came we dropped it and continued on jib alone. The tides are significant along the Queensland coast and today the wind was changing direction rather frequently necessitating several course changes during the day. This led at one point to us having to decide which side to pass a rather unpleasant rock with  tide favouring one side and wind the other all very annoying as we were surrounded by so much open sea ! John thought this situation would make an excellent exam question. In the end there were so many frequent wind shifts and we had jibed the jenny so many times which for us requires furling and we were getting tired so we resorted to the iron sail which would probably not have been the correct exam answer. We passed the nasty rock safely and continued to South Percy island where we planned to sit out the bad weather.

The awkward rock!

It is a barren island and the recommended bay is Rocky Ledge bay off the north coast of South Percy in the channel between it and Middle Percy Island. We were pleased to get the anchor down as the conditions were not improving .We also decided to use the anchor buddy for extra holding power, which we have not used often since we bought the Rocna anchor. We had wind over tide moving the boat in a very strange way  with respect to the anchor which meant that the chain went under the boat during the ebb resulting in abnormal stresses on the bow roller in the 30 knots wind and the most sickening grinding as the chain moved over the rocky bottom. We used the snubbers as usual but because of the odd angle of the chain they did not work all the time so we tied on extra ropes to the chain on deck to take the strain off the windlass but by next morning they had broken and the snubbers had come undone and the chain which was taking the  load was pulling out and had nearly got to  the end. We immediately used the motor to take the strain while we pulled the chain in a few meters but the anchor buddy was stuck on the rocky ground pulling the bow down as the tide rose and the boat bounced in the not insignificant swell. It had obviously dropped to the bottom as the tide ebbed so not a good idea for tidal water anchoring. We got the Buddy off and some chain in, retied the snubbers then John had the great idea of using the anchor hook to take the strain when the snubbers were not. This had lain in the locker unused for several years but its moment had arrived and it really worked very well. The wind increased again accompanied by very unpleasant bullets at regular intervals during  the afternoons. One we think reached 60 knots and was enough to snap one of the snubbers. It was all a very uncomfortable experience and one we could do little to improve it. We contemplated moving but as we had no idea about the other anchorages nearby so we decided to stay at South Percy until the weather improved despite the chain grinding sickeningly and the regular bullets. We finally left on Sunday 27th May with great relief especially when the anchor came up without any problem and we were delighted to see South Percy fade into the distance and the past. Much to our surprise we found the thick metal of the anchor hook had bent under the strain of the three days of such strong winds!

Anchorage at south Percy island- looked very calm initially.

Broken snubber- obviously under some force.

We sailed a short way to Curlew island which has flat water and a sandy bottom and a very pretty anchorage behind a sand bar all of which we really appreciated after the last few days.

Large typical rock en route to Curlew island

We set off the next day after a quite night and our next stop was Scawfell Island and oh joy another protected anchorage with flat water although there was some wind. We arrived here at low tide which was lucky as there is a large  irregular fringing reef and some  rather unpleasant coral heads which would not be visible at high tide and another welcome peaceful night.

Alarming drying rock in Scawfell bay

And reefs appearing at low tide.

Looks good with nothing visible at high tide.

We have continued to use the snubbers and the hook for anchoring as the strong tides and wind do make the boat swing in a curious way at anchor . We left Scawfell on Tuesday 29th May and had a pleasant sail under jib alone as the South East trades are in full swing now so at least 25 knots every day and we are always downwind so the new jib is getting well used and at least we feel the purchase was justified . We reached the Whitsunday islands today and anchored off Shaw island in the company of three other boats but again it was a beautiful anchorage and sheltered. We needed to arrive in the Port Airlie Marina by morning and the tide would be against us so we decided to sail overnight to get the tide with us and luckily it was full moon and a clear calm night. We left at 00.30 and had a magical sail in flat water with at least a two knot lift from the tide arriving in the anchorage outside Airlie beach just as the tide turned. We could  see all the island and navigation lights clearly but of course al the electronic navigation aids take a lot of the guess work out of any journey now. We slept for a few more hours at dawn and then checked into Port Airlie marina.

Approaching Whitsunday islands

Cute small bird welcome to Airlie Beach.

 

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Queensland Coast April 2018 –May 2018

After very little sailing last year we spent an eventful winter in Europe the highlight of which was the birth of our grandson Edward Ian on 31st December. Vanessa and Antony were equally delighted with the event and we enjoyed contributing to his care in the first few weeks of his life. An amazing skiing season followed as Chamonix had the heaviest snow for 20 years so it was a lot of fun.

Spring arrived and we returned to Baringo in  Bundaberg Port Marina where she had spent her second winter ( Australian summer ) on the ground. Luckily she was in good condition just the usual tattered cover and musty air below but no serious problems. We felt lucky as there had been a serious storm while we had been away during which a catamaran had been lifted up by the wind and carelessly dropped again with severe damage, and the foresail of another boat had unfurled causing it to topple over and land again on one of the metal supports with the result that the hull parted company with the keel and there was  a large hole in the hull. Fortunately we had not been parked near either of them and we realised that all the hard work removing the sails was certainly worthwhile although we had left the mainsail on the boom this year, a habit Jimmy Cornell slipped into so we thought we  could as well, and indeed it saved us a lot of hard work  preparing the boat for sailing again.

The antifouling was already underway and the pulpit repairs to the stanchions were almost complete, one stanchion had become very loose for reasons unknown but was easily fixed.

Nice clean hull!

Broken keel on a nearby yacht lifted up in the air during a storm.

So we were ready for launching on Thursday 12th April, always an anxious event but all went smoothly and we were back in the marina to start work in earnest. The weather is almost always dry and sunny with a light breeze blowing up the Burnett River so pleasant conditions to prepare everything although finding the optimum moment to hoist the sails can be tricky and is usually very early in the morning. We needed to service our liferaft in Brisbane and John had also discovered a leak in the hot water tank which had been repaired twice in Raiatea, Polynesia.  Luckily we found a new one in Brisbane  so it was a fruitful visit and included visits to  Magnus Dyer (ex Hong Kong)  and Olivia in their wonderful Queensland home in Brookfield and Robin and Jane in Ashgrove with whom food and wine are a real treat .

We returned with a new 4 man liferaft rather than the old 8 man which might have been difficult for just two of us to manage, and the new hot water tank which was masterfully inserted after removing the old one, not an easy task but masterfully done by Jay Roll a marine plumber.

new hot water tank in engine room

closer view of nice new hot water tank!

 

We continued the tasks with which all sailors will be familiar, rigging checks, engine and generator service, complete change of cooking gas equipment ( australian regulations ) and myriads of small repairs that make up the bouillabaisse of pre-voyage preparation.

repainted tail of wind generator

The gold star went to John for repairing the holding tank after about four years of inactivity; but with the Whitsunday islands on our route where they are mandatory we had to get it fixed so rather than get a new one he masterfully took the old one apart and it now functions perfectly! We had to replace the large port winch which had seized last year for reasons unknown as we have regularly them ourselves and this had never happened before. It is always a satisfying job as the engineering of the parts is wonderful and the way they function with such huge loads on them always seems rather miraculous.

new winch parts and seized old cog.

Once ready to go of course the weather which had been prefect turned into an offshore gale so we decided to wait, as much because of the difficulty getting off the pontoon, we were being seriously pinned on, and after so little sailing last year we felt a gentler start would be advisable .

pontoon neighbours Bundaberg

We finally departed on 2nd may and anchored in the Burnett River for a couple of hours to do some finishing touches and at 10.00 am we headed for open sea. An amazing “runway “of lights leads into the Burnett river so we followed this out making a turn northwards just before the end and it looked like Bye Bye Bundaberg after Baringo’s 15 months in residence. It is an excellent facility and the work if expensive is of high quality and the staff all very pleasant and friendly. The wind was still strong 20 kts and the swell built, as it does, as we jibed our way north west in a south east wind. We had not really got our sea legs and were not looking forward to the planned night sail. By chance we heard another vessel on the radio who was advised to anchor a little further up the coast in Roundhill which we had initially discounted as being too shallow but hearing the conversation we called up ourselves and found we could  anchor  there overnight although not in the optimum spot. With unanimous agreement we chose this option and even through it was a night entry we had clear instructions from the local VMR ( volunteer marine reserve ) and we anchored easily in the very capacious Bustard Bay. The price to pay was   significant swell through the night but at least we were stationary.  It seems that all the way up the Queensland Coast there are stations that monitor vessels and check on their arrival and keep you on their log and also give twice daily weather forecasts which so far have been very accurate. It is like aircraft moving from one ATC to the next and a very welcome service.

The next day we sailed a few miles up the coast to Pancake Creek which we decided was named because the water is so flat so a very welcome respite after Bustard Bay, and it was a pleasant restful day.

flat water of pancake creek.

sunset at pancake creek

We made an early start next morning to make Hummocky Island before dark about 50nm away. We passed the industrial area of Gladstone an important aluminium city and then Curtis island with  plumes of factory smoke rising to the skies. The wind was much lighter now and the sea calm and the anchorage on the north side of Hummocky was very pretty and the sea was calm through the night.

approaching Hummocky island which is appropriately named.

The last step of the way was a 16 nm sail to Great Keppel island named by Captain Cook, as many places along this coast have been, after Admiral Keppel. We seem to be in his wake again 148 years later and it is amazing to think how he managed although he did come to grief on the reef that is now called Endeavour, lets hope the modern technology  and surveys save us from the same fate. We needed to go through a buoyed   narrow channel at high tide to gain entrance to the northern side of Great Keppel island off Leeke’s beach and for us this  needed the high tide. The water is generally quite shallow along the Queensland coast so many anchorages are out of bounds for Baringo, hence the popularity of catamarans here. However, the bay is large and so plenty of anchoring and swinging room and we had a pleasant walk along the beach after deploying the dinghy for the first time this year. We can go ashore in more boisterous conditions now as the outboard was serviced in Bundaberg and has much more fizz. The main worry here is salt water crocodiles which are a protected species so have increased in number, also the stinging jelly fish in the water which can be rapidly fatal and also deadly snakes in the bush! Alan Lucas’s excellent pilot book of the Queensland coast devotes a whole chapter of graphic detail about all the dangers, so unfortunatley there is no encouragement to swim or hike which are the two main pleasures of coastal cruising apart from the actual sailing itself!

The next day the wind picked up considerably confining us to the boat and by afternoon we had 35-40kts blowing steadily .The wind generator howled away which always increases the level of anxiety and is not inducive to sleep .Luckily the swell did not increase and our anchor and snubbers help despite the severe strain .It was not an easy night as the wind did not abate until the morning when we found the wind speed indicator had given up …obviously overworked! It was calm enough to hoist the dinghy on deck before leaving for Keppel Bay Marina but the rain had replaced the wind to ensure a wet passage over but it was only 9 miles so the discomfort was short lived and we tied up easily in the calm flat water of the marina.

 

 

 

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Baringo’s voyages 2017

Baringo’s sailing this year has been rather curtailed because of family commitments but we were eventually ready to leave the Bundaberg port marina for the sea on 27th August. We had to stay longer in the marina than planned because of a fracture in the intermediate shrouds which had to be repaired before we could leave .Our plan was to cross Hervey Bay and explore the west coast of Fraser Island which is the largest sand island in the world and sail as far South as we could into the Great Sandy Strait. At this time of the year the Antarctic humpback whales visit Hervey bay to breed and rear their young in the warm waters so this was an exciting treat to anticipate. The first night out we anchored nearby in the Burnett River to make sure the anchoring and other systems were operational before we finally left the security blanket of the marina to which we had become accustomed despite looking forward to being on the open sea again.

The next day we had a very early start to reach the northern tip of Fraser Island, Rooney Point .We had a very easy and enjoyable sail east across Hervey Bay a distance  about 40 nm so with  20 kts of wind from SSE on the beam we arrived in good time in daylight.  We had our first whale sighting on the way across and we always had to keep a good lookout as hitting one accidentally would be painful for both parties.  We encountered our first problem en route … the larger port winch had jammed in one direction! This came as a great disappointment as well as an annoyance because we had meticulously serviced all the winches every year since we left Hong Kong and this was a first  for us. Luckily there is another one on the port side to use so we could continue.

Platypus bay extends along the west coast of Fraser Island from Rooney Point as far as Inskip point and is essentially one long beautiful wide sandy beach and anchoring is possible anywhere along its length. The sea was far too cold for swimming and sharks are about so no real temptation for us although with the sunshine and clear water it often looked inviting.  Anchoring is possible anywhere  along the length of  Platypus Bay so after a  peaceful first night at anchor we dismantled the winch curious to find the problem. This proved to be two metal gear components totally stuck and we could not undo them, but we could not work out why so there was nothing we could do except hope none of the other winches developed the same problem. We plan to find out more from Lewmar later.

Playtpus bay, Hervey Bay

platypus bay beach

Whales swimming around the boat

 

The next day the wind forced us to move further down Platypus bay to get more shelter in the so called Lagoon Anchorage. Again we were anchored off an endless empty sandy beach ,no  chance for us to enter the lagoon with a 2m draft , but the sea was calm and  we could hear the whales singing at night and they often paid a visit to us during  the day. They are an amazing sight. We continued to make our way south slowly enjoying walking on the deserted  beach  every day but  were surprised one morning when a small sea plane landed just by Baringo! The pilot anchored the aeroplane swam, sunbathed and then took off !

Sleeping pelicans on the beach

sea plane

cute little sea plane

Catamaran on dried out lagoon.

The southern end of Hervey Bay narrows into the Great Sandy Strait and with this narrowing the tides become rather important as the water flows so much faster through the Strait often producing 2-3 knots against (or for ) .So we waited for a fair tide before entering the strait and as there was a northerly wind that day blowing directly down the strait we had to find a protected anchorage which was rather further south than our original plan but luckily north of the (in)famous  Boonlye Point  which is only passable at high tide for any boat with a respectable keel! There were several other yachts there presumably waiting to get across with the following morning’s high tide. Luckily the timing was comfortable a 07.30 departure and we were lucky to follow another yacht through the  channel and our least depth below the keel was 0.8 so we were glad when we arrived in deeper water . The wind was northerly again and our planned anchorage, Garry’s Anchorage, was full so we  continued but none of the other anchorages we had  considered were sheltered in the strong northerly wind so we finished as far south as we could go in Tin Can Inlet. We passed the exit from Great Sandy Strait to the open sea across the Wide bay bar and it looked quite unpleasant reminiscent of a washing machine and no boats were crossing that day. Luckily the southern end of Tin Can Inlet is just one large anchoring area with many and varied boats but plenty of space and  a flat sea despite the persistent strong northerly wind .

The next day all was calm and serene in what looked like a different place now at high tide as lots of land had disappeared! As usual we had another problem to deal with …a non-functioning engine room fan. After investigation it only proved to be a corroded connection so repair and replacement was easy. We explored the upper reaches of Snapper Creek, one of several leading off Tin Can Inlet , but as the outboard was not functioning quite as normal we had  to time our trips with the tide and  only go in light winds which meant morning outings as the wind usually picked up during the afternoons. Luckily this enabled us to have a sumptuous Australian breakfast one morning in the local Barnacle café. We stayed for three very relaxing nights and then left on 8th September on the return journey.

Tin Can bay anchorage

Tin Can Bay yacht club

The weather was very calm and as we passed the entry into Wide bay bar it looked flat and blue with lots of yachts heading to the sea, quite a different picture this time. Our first stop on the way back was Garry’s Anchorage which we had missed on the way south, but it was now almost deserted so no problem finding a spot There was a pleasant walk ashore through the Fraser Island forest so after reading all the cautionary tales about dangerous creatures before we started  we were treated to a Dingo sighting! We had been advised by another yacht that we should always carry a dingo stick but the dingo seemed more curious than threatening and followed us back to the dinghy .

Garrys anchorage

dinghy landing Garrys

pleasant forest trail

Dingo warning

And crocodile warning

The next day we had to transit Boonlye Point again so after studying all the tidal information we could get not all of which was concurred we made a plan to cross. Sadly this unravelled and rather than take it on a falling tide we anchored until the next day just south of the shallow transit! Luckily the Great Sandy Strait is what is says with sandy flats and shallow water for anchoring almost anywhere! The next day  we went through, again 0.8 m the lowest depth under the keel and happy to escape mishap .We had booked a berth in Urangan Marina for two nights as we needed to provision again and get  wi-fi   as the I-pad our back up navigation aid had stopped working. We achieved the necessary ashore  but the weather forecast for our departure day was very strong northerly winds (again ) but there was no space for us to stay in the marina so we had to find an anchorage to shelter for the next couple of days and nights. Apparently this winter has produced rather more than average northerly winds. We decided on Susan River estuary further south so the wrong direction for our return to Bundaberg but no choice about that and the wind picked up on cue as we approached the estuary, but again the sea was calm once we rounded the headland into the Susan River. Several other yachts had had the same idea but we found a sheltered spot and waited out the north wind on board for the next 24 hours . We knew the wind was changing  to south west which would put us firmly on a lee shore so we were prepared to leave when it changed and the weather forecasting so far had been very accurate timing the changes of wind direction . But it did come  rather suddenly and having let out another 120m of anchor the previous day we swung perilously close to land which was at low tide much closer than when we had arrived at low tide ! We managed a quick get away and although it looked pretty rough outside in fact it was not really difficult and we made our way speedily north with the wind behind us .

Susan river Great Sandy straits

We now had to find another anchorage before returning to Bundaberg this time sheltered from the southerly wind ! We chose Woody Island and again had lots of company .It proved again good holding and as dusk fell the sell thankfully eased and we had a good ret before the dawn start to Bundaberg the next day. It was a great sail across Hervey Bay about 40 nm with the wind changing to north easterly that afternoon and calming but we still managed to sail all the way to the “runway “entry to the Burnett River ,a line of port and starboard simultaneously flashing navigation lights . We anchored in the river before going into the marina the next day and onto the hard on Tuesday 19th September. So it was au revoir Baringo until next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Caledonia to Australia 8.11.2016 – 29.11.2016

After three weeks divided between London and Chamonix we returned to Australia to attend Antony and Vanessa’s Australian wedding celebration in Melbourne. We had a few days to spare before going to Melbourne so after passing through Sydney staying again in the fabulous Gibson apartment we took a trip by air to Uluru /Ayers Rock the red centre of Australia. Although quite touristy now the unusual natural beauty is quite stunning. We hiked and biked and saw sunrise and sunset views of the rock from various viewpoints and learnt more about Aboriginal traditions and ideas.

Ayers rock at sunset

Ayers rock at sunset

It was then on to Melbourne and we were royally entertained by Antony’s family, sumptuous dining and a trip to Healesville sanctuary to see koalas and kangaroos. Of course no visit to Australia is complete without  seeing these extraordinary and unique creatures close up.

Koala bear

Koala bear- asleep as usual!

Kangaroos

Kangaroos

The finale of our visit, the wedding party on Saturday 9th November was excellent, a delicious tapas spread prepared by Antony’s sister and mother. Antony made another amusing speech, but John was off the hook this time!  Now it was time to return to the boat, but we could not resist another look at the views from the Gibson’s lookout en route.

The boat was in good shape on our return even more so when we had installed the new cooker. We provisioned and waited for the right weather for the crossing from Noumea to Bundaberg in Queensland. Luckily we had to wait a few days so used the time fruitfully to clean the hull while at anchor off Ilot Signal one of the many beautiful tropical island in the New Caledonia lagoon ( the largest in the world) which also had a large population of different migratory birds all chatting especially at dusk.The copper coating antifouling we had put on in Turkey 5 years ago had now worn off so it was hard work cleaning the growth off the hull and John needed to use the diving air cylinder to reach those parts others could not reach.

new cooker

new cooker

some of the thousands of birds resting on our bow; they slept there all night.

some of the thousands of birds resting on our bow; they slept there all night.

We had the green light from Emmanuel to leave on Wednesday 16.11.2016 so reluctantly we departed via the Passe Dumbea and there was no going back once through .We had met another  boat, Platinum IV while at Ilot Signal and as they were sailing the same route we had a radio “sked” twice daily with them for the journey. The voyage  started peacefully under motor for the first 3 hours but as expected the wind gradually picked up to the usual 25 kts and the waves came with it . Initially the wind came from the SW so we could keep slightly north of the rhumb line but by the following day the prevailing SE trades arrived with increasing strength and larger waves but comparatively easy especially sailing downwind .We made good speed 7-8 kts and the miles passed under the hull . We also had 1kt west flowing current to help .We unfortunately lost our  northing by keeping the big jib up too long to maintain speed and not sailing sufficiently down wind . We were contemplating jibing on the last night as we approached the coast but were overtaken by rather a sudden unannounced storm and had to dump the main quickly and so were able to jibe round easily on the small self tacking jib alone . It remained rough for about 3 hours impossible to sleep and as we did not want to arrive in darkness we sailed slowly with the furled little jenny rounding the cardinal mark on the reef north of Fraser island around 02.00 on Monday 21st November .We entered Hervey Bay but our hopes for some shelter from wind and waves was ill founded ,    there was none !

With the morning light we finally spotted a very insignificant hill on the horizon very unprepossessing and would never have led any early navigator to expect it could represent the giant land mass of Australia .Compared with the approach to New Caledonia with a long stretch of high mountain ranges it was rather unimpressive, nevertheless we were glad to see it !

By noon we were entering the river mouth still in quite rough conditions but once in the river itself the water did become flatter and the entrance was easy to follow marked clearly with an avenue of buoys . We checked in by radio and decided to anchor for the rest of the day and that night in the river opposite the marina, the staff were  pretty busy with arriving yachts ,the final exodus before the typhoon season and we wanted to rest and clear up after the voyage . We went in the following morning with help on hand and the entry administration was completed easily as all the officials came to us rather than us tramping around gloomy offices. The Port Bundaberg marina was excellent with good pontoons, a nice restaurant, clean bathrooms, a large area for storing the boats on the hard and very helpful staff.

Bundaberg marina pontoons. Baringo just visible at the end.

Bundaberg marina pontoons. Baringo just visible at the end.

Marina restaurant

Marina restaurant

Baringo on land with a grand set of stairs provided!

Baringo on land with a grand set of stairs provided!

Rainbow Lorikeets abound in the area.

Rainbow Lorikeets abound in the area.

 

So we had crossed the Pacific and what an ocean it is, so empty and so interesting to explore. It is an unforgettable experience and there is a tinge of sadness that it is over. Our plans for next year are uncertain, the idea of cruising the Australian coast is quite attractive or possibly returning to New Caledonia for the season, or head to Singapore to complete our circumnavigation ……probably the  decision will be made for us !

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Tanna, Vanuatu to New Caledonia: August 29th –September 24th 2016

After removing the ash from the deck as best we could (it was surprisingly sticky) , we motored against the wind to the south along the east coast of Tanna. The morning surprise was when John saw a very large dolphin that proved on closer inspection to be a breeching whale about 100meters from the boat! It breeched three times to have a look at us and we obliged by slowing down and let it swim across our bows.  It was a dramatic sight but also rather alarming.  We had the usual rough passage with 30 knots of wind and the accompanying increasing swell but we had Bob helping this time so the night was much easier and we reached the atoll of Ouvea in the Loyalty Islands the next morning.  We entered through the Passe Coetlogon but had to wait for a cargo vessel to exit first as it is quite narrow but well-marked as is usual in the French territories. Once in the lagoon the sea was calm but the land is too flat to provide shelter from the wind which continued its 30 knot blow. The sea was a rich turquoise but we could not launch the dinghy or swim comfortably in such a strong wind. The next day was much the same although Bob swam, his outfit exactly matching the colour of the water (see photo! ). The wind continued to howl but cabin fever set in the next day and so we all swam despite the conditions and later launched the dingy and Bob Sandie and John went ashore. The search for bread was fruitless but a few tinned provisions were found.

Bob in matching the sea outfit.

Bob in matching the sea outfit.

Ouvea atoll on a cloudy windy day sadly.

Ouvea atoll on a cloudy windy day sadly.

Next day 3rd September the wind was forecast to be easterly so would allow us a better course towards the mainland of New Caledonia  “ le grand Terre “ . We sailed off early to make the 60 mile passage in daylight. We had the usual 30 kts but at least we could make the course for Passe Thio on the east coast of le grand terre and fully reefed we actually had a good passage. Our first sight of le grand terre was rather exciting and it is easy to see why Captain Cook who was the first European here decided on the name New Caledonia.  We had decided to anchor in Toupeti bay very close to the Passe Thio and we just dropped the anchor as dusk fell. It was a beautiful bay surrounded by mountains covered with forest, deserted and well protected.

New Caledonia east coast

New Caledonia east coast

NC east coast

NC east coast

We were now inside the lagoon so we had calm water despite the strong wind so next morning we headed south along the east coast with the red earth glowing in the sun contrasting dramatically with the green trees, a wonderful colour scheme. The next stop was Yate river estuary and again we were the only yacht which was fortunate as there was not much space between the reefs but the passage was well marked and the holding excellent in mud. It was another beautiful spot where we could swim and enjoy the stillness.

Yate estuary

Yate estuary

reefs leaving Yate

reefs leaving Yate

The next day the hurdle was the Canal de Havannah  passing around the SE end of the island which we needed to do at slack water just before a flooding tide which the admiralty pilot said was 1 hour earlier than in the tide tables. At other times serious eddies formed. We had timed it perfectly and were surprised by  the strong eddies and the   confused sea which still greeted us ,the boat was thrown around as indeed we were but it was short lived and we could see the flat water ahead and we were soon through safely.

We found another beautiful anchorage in Baie de Prony en route to Noumea a very large bay with numerous well protected anchorages so we had a very quiet night there.

Woodin canal (channel)

Woodin canal (channel)

The next day was another early start as the pattern seemed to be emerging that the wind died during the night and gradually strengthened from about mid-morning onwards so sailing was easiest starting at first light. We transited canal Woodin just west of Baie de Prony with a rising tide and we arrived at Port Moselle marina at 12.20 on 5th September and were efficiently helped into a berth alongside. We had quite a thorough biosecurity check but luckily we had eaten almost all the fresh provisions so they only got the remains of the cabbage and some ginger .

We enjoyed the restaurants, wine, patisseries and market of Noumea and decided it was too much of a rush to go to Australia in the next few days. Luckily the marina could keep the boat while we went back to England ( we had already booked the flights thinking we would have been in Australia ) so we went cruising with Bob and Sandie instead of the ocean passage.

Noumea bus stop

Noumea bus stop

We left the marina again on 8th September to try and sail to Isle des Pins about 60 miles to the SE but after leaving the harbour it was clearly impossible as a 35-40 kt SE wind was blowing so we changed course for  Ilot Maitre about 5 miles outside Noumea and sheltered there for the rest of the day. It was impossible to go ashore but we did manage to swim John and Bob reaching the nearby coral reef. We had to abandon the idea of Iles des Pins because the wind was too strong and on the nose so we headed north early in the morning to avoid the strongest winds and we had to find an early anchorage in the Baie St Vincente  to seek shelter. We had 50 kt gusts rounding the headland into the bay ! The next day we moved a few miles further north  to Baie de Moustiques on Isle Ducos to what looked like a very protected anchorage from the raging SE wind and indeed it was as three other yachts had also discovered.  It was a beautiful spot quite wild and remote and there was so little activity from the other yachts we thought they had been left or even abandoned until two of them moved while we were walking on the island a couple of days later when the winds was calmer.  One boat had a dog on board but it did not get much exercise at least while we were there. We climbed up the hill passing a herd of wild horses to be rewarded with a wonderful view of all the islands and bays.

Ile Ducos Baie Moustique

Ile Ducos Baie Moustique

Wild horses

Wild horses

Ile Ducos anchorage

Ile Ducos anchorage

Hill top Ile Ducos

Hill top Ile Ducos- self timer!

On 12 th September we left to go back towards Noumea and anchored off isle Tangue the return journey. The wind continued to blow but we had a quiet night and decided to go ashore very early the next morning, when the wind was less, and explore what looked like a village. Luckily it was perfectly calm but we found a housing development with private pontoons for each house and no boulangerie for morning croissants, so rather disappointing.

Sunset at Tangue

Sunset at Tangue

Our last night was again at Ilot Maitre and this time we did get ashore and had a very nice lunch and walked around the island on the beautiful sandy beach to watch the many kite surfers on the southern side. We swam to the coral reef again with an encouraging amount of live coral and plenty of brightly coloured fish.

Kite surfers Ilot Maitre

Kite surfers Ilot Maitre

Multitude of Kite surfers

Multitude of Kite surfers

Long beach of Ilot Maitre

Long beach of Ilot Maitre

Ilot maitre

Ilot maitre- beautiful soft sand

We went back to Port Moselle to say goodbye to Bob and Sandie who were flying to Sydney to complete their holiday. We then had to decide how to spend the next few days before our own departure. The wind would have the major decision making role in that though.

In the interim we hired a car and visited the Lagon Bleu a national park around an artificial lake created by a dam for a hydroelectric project near Yate where we had anchored earlier. It was beautiful and we saw the national bird the Cagou in the park. The colours were so vivid and everywhere so quiet with very few people.

Yate bay where we had anchored.

Yate bay where we had anchored.

Turbine hall hydroelectric station- fine 50s style

Turbine hall hydroelectric station- fine 50s style

Lac Yate

Lac Yate

Riviere Blue national park

Riviere Blue national park

Cagou bird

Cagou bird-fine wings for a flightless bird

stylish head feathers

stylish head feathers

A big international round-the- island race was coming up in New Caledonia so marina berths were in short supply so we had to leave and as the wind was now much weaker we decided to visit the renowned Isle des Pins. We had seen that Karl Kwok with Beau Geste was entering the race and also Scallywag previously Ragamuffin, both boats from Hong Kong . We were so lucky with the winds over the next few days we had an easy, albeit motor sailing trip to Isle des Pins , such a beautiful island ( sorry Bob and Sandie ) . Amazing water so clear and a spectacular piscine naturelle, a sea water pool surrounded with coral reefs completely  unspoiled, no parasols ,loungers stalls etc. We travelled there in a traditional sailing pirogue across the magical Upi bay with its numerous unusually shaped coral island. Fortunately, the whole island has been protected from development by the local inhabitants and so was  quite unusual and a real treat.

Baie de kanumera

Baie de kanumera

Anchorage of Iles des Pins from top of hill. Very busy for NC

Anchorage of Ile des Pins from top of hill. Very busy for NC

Pirogue Iles des Pins

Pirogue Ile des Pins

A single pine tree and pirogue

A single pine tree and pirogue

en route to piscine naturelle

en route to piscine naturelle showing the characteristic pine trees

piscine naturelle- actually more beautiful than any photo

piscine naturelle- actually more beautiful than any photo

car hired on Iles de Pines-colourful

car hired on Ile des Pins-colourful

Baie de crabes north side of Ile des Pins

Baie de crabes north side of Ile des Pins

We motor sailed back anchoring again in Baie de Prony before arriving in Port Moselle and getting the boat ready for her lone sojourn there.  We flew to Brisbane on 24th September and plan to bring Baringo to Australia in November so watch this space.

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