Maybe we should not have hoisted the spinnaker!

After a bumpy night in Pancake Creek with a howling South-wester threatening to drag our anchor, we motored out into the bay at 7:15 and had the sails up at 7:30am. After a muesli breakfast on the go, “Slocum” Schady said “this light Southwesterly is ideal for the asymmetrical spinnaker, so let’s get it up before the wind peters out at midday”

Motoring out of Pancake Creek

Motoring out of Pancake Creek

So, at 8:30 the spinnaker went up. Now, for our non-sailing friends a short explanation: Esprit has two standard sails, a mainsail of 50m2 and a foresail of 42m2, total area of about 92m2. We have bought a storm jib of 10m2 for extreme conditions. Also, an asymmetrical spinnaker of 135m2 for when the wind is light and blowing from behind, from about a quarter off the stern, to about square on the beam. We furl the foresail when the spinnaker is hoisted, increasing the total sail area to 185m2.

An hour into a relaxed sail, the forecasted drop in the wind turned into an increasing wind from 10 knots, to 20-25 knots in a matter of minutes. Problem is, at this wind strength it is virtually impossible for two people to get the spinnaker down. So now we are entering the main shipping channel of Gladstone harbour going at about 10-11 knots, with about 28 ships within sight, either anchored or transiting in the shipping lane.

A four hour roller coaster ride followed, including five broaches, before the wind dropped, allowing us to douse the spinnaker. Needless to say we covered half the 70nm distance to Hummocky island in this time. For the non-sailors, a broach looks something like this, compliments of Google:

A spinnaker broach

A spinnaker broach

The night at Hummocky was again a sleepless one with strong wind gusts from the East, but we woke this morning to a glorious day with a gentle Southerly pushing us on to Great Keppel island, 3 hours to the North.

Beautiful 3 hour run with the jib poled out.

Beautiful 3 hour run with the jib poled out.

Here we are anchored off the North of Great Keppel island on a quiet Sunday night, six weeks into our journey!

Great Keppel

Great Keppel

Lady Musgrave Island

It’s been awhile since our last post, but we have been too far offshore for phone and internet service. Leaving Urangan after the outboard was serviced, we motor-sailed to Port Bundaberg due to a lack of wind. After filling up with diesel, we left early the next morning for Lady Musgrave Island, again motor-sailing the 54 nm in 8 hrs because of light winds.

Approaching Lady Musgrave

Approaching Lady Musgrave

It was quite tricky entering the lagoon surrounded by a fringing reef, but after anchoring, we were again treated to a spectacular sunset.

Channel markers - about 15m wide

Channel markers – about 15m wide

Lady Musgrave sunset

Lady Musgrave sunset

Thursday dawned bright and sunny and Annie caught two sucker fish before breakfast. She released them again, as these ugly fish which attach themselves underneath sharks, are inedible. We then visited the island to explore and my, what a magical place. Birdlife galore and covered with vegetation, mostly Pisonia trees.

Island information map

Island information map

Native in Pisonia forest

Native in Pisonia forest

Annie and Pandanus palms

Annie and Pandanus palms

Annie, Stephen and Sandy

Annie, Stephen and Sandy

After lunch we went snorkelling with Stephen and Sandy from the boat next to us. We looked at beautiful coral reefs and schools of exotic fish.

Snorkelmeister Schady on the left

Snorkelmeister Schady on the left

Today we went for an early walk around the island, which only takes 30 minutes and after a swim and breakfast we lifted the anchor to go to Pancake Creek on the mainland. We will stay here tonight before sailing North in what looks like a good South-east wind tomorrow.

Departure walk around the island.

Departure walk around the island.

Hervey Bay via the Great Sandy Strait

After a good night’s rest behind Ida island, we waited for the incoming tide at 12:30 and set sail up the Strait in this section where it is wide enough, to sail up to Garry’s Anchorage. With just the jib up and a 3 knot incoming tide we sailed all the way up to Garry’s doing the 14 nm in 2.5 hours. Once we had set the anchor, we went ashore for a long walk on the island.

Going ashore

Going ashore

Mud crab artworks

Mud crab artworks

We got back at 4pm and were greeted by a big group of yachties having sundowners on the beach. Introductions were made and they insisted we join them. All these people are retired and are making their annual sail up the coast. A most convivial group from Yamba.

Liquid sunset at Garry's

Liquid sunset at Garry’s

We pulled up the anchor at 5:30 the next morning to get to the notorious Sheridan Flats at high tide. This is the shallowest part of the strait, more or less halfway to Hervey Bay and we crossed it at 7:30 with less than 100mm below the keel. Thank goodness the GPS and channel markers are there to make life easier in these complex channel passages. We entered the Great Sandy Strait Marina at 10:30, welcomed by Bob and Deb Rafter, the friendly managers who were waiting to catch our mooring lines. The warm showers were enjoyable and Annie did the laundry duty whilst I took the opportunity to have a haircut and visit the local Apple expert. I use my iPhone 6 as a hotspot for internet access for my MacBook Air and they inexplicably stopped talking to each other. David the Apple expert, showed me the dark arts of the OS system and got them talking again.

This morning we went for a long walk to the markets at the Urangan Pier, an amazing relic from days past, fortunately kept in good repair after part of it was demolished. The photo below tells the history.

Urangan Pier history

Urangan Pier history

Two relics from the past

Two relics from the past

Annie at Pier's end

Annie at Pier’s end

The market, in particular the farmer’s fruit and vegetable section was a delight. Annie paid $25 for all the fruit and veg below:

Moreton Bay fig tree at the markets

Moreton Bay fig tree at the markets

$25 for all of this!

$25 for all of this!

There is a lot of rain forecast for tomorrow, so we will do chores around the boat. On Monday morning Andrew from “Aquaholics Outboard Service” (I just love the name!) will come to service the recalcitrant outboard before we set off to Bundaberg in the arvo. This is of course sugar cane country and the home of Bundy rum – the twin’s favourite.

Roller coaster ride to Fraser Island.

Since our last post from Mooloolaba, we ended up waiting there for 4 days for a 30-35 knot S-E offshore to subside. We were getting bored, so we bought our first newspaper in a month and that was so depressing, we turned on the TV for the first time since we left Sydney and Annie watched one of Ron Watson’s collection of movies we downloaded on a hard drive.

On Wednesday we decided to bite the bullet and make a run for Wide Bay Bar, to get into the Great Sandy Strait behind Fraser Island and get shelter from the wind. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and sailing around it would have added another 120nm to our trip. Despite the predicted 3m swell offshore due to the 4 days of S-East winds, we thought the wind had dropped enough to 20-25 knots, for  us to manage the trip. Besides, Esprit is a big bottomed girl of 10 tonnes and it takes 15-20 knots to really get her fat arse going on a broad reach.

Once outside the harbour we hoisted the sails and as this was in the lee of the breakwater, it was still manageable. Sailing out 3 miles to sea to get away from the lee shore, it became clear that the 25 knot wind and 3m swell was quite messy. “Slocum” Schady is one of the best helm persons I know and she took it in her stride.

Leaving Mooloolaba

Leaving Mooloolaba

From here things became interesting and we had one of the most exhilarating sails since sailing into a hurricane South of Madagascar in 1987. We had logged in to Marine Rescue at 6:30 to report an expected transit time of about 10 hours for the 55 nm to Wide bay bar. But averaging 8-9 kn/h in the building wind, we completed the distance in 6.5h. I think the following videos illustrate the conditions better than I can describe. From the relatively benign start, to sets of 4-5m rogue waves breaking at their crests, to squalls later in the piece. This gave us speeds in excess of 10 knots.

Then this:

And this:

And finally, to cool Annie off:

Rounding Double Island Point, a big squall hit us, forcing us to tuck in a reef – and a half hour later, a second reef, reducing the mainsail to 50% and shortly afterwards, furling the jib. We were still doing 8 knots as we approached the bar, so we dropped the main and was looking ahead at a horizon of breaking waves. Fortunately, we had Marine Rescue on channel 16 following us on their screens through our AIS transponder, saying “100m to starboard, 50m to port” allowing us to miss the various sand bars, before a huge wave picked us up and we started surfing at 18 knots. I could hear Annie saying “oh sh1t – we shouldn’t be here!”

I wish I had a Go-Pro mounted on the spray-dodger to capture the view of the waves behind us, but we managed to surf into the “Mad Mile” as it is known locally, and work our way into Pelican Bay where we anchored in the lee of Ida island. We knocked back a half a bottle of whisky! Lesson learned: don’t cross this bar in 25 knots of wind, in a 3-4m sea!

The outboard motor

We will stay in Mooloolaba for four nights. Since arriving on Saturday to a beautiful sunset, a 30-35 knot S – E wind has been raging offshore, so we have sat it out in the relatively safe Mooloolaba harbour. The howling wind at night has had us constantly checking the anchor, but our holding is good.

Mooloolaba sunset

Mooloolaba sunset

On Sunday we set off in our dinghy with it’s 2.5 hp outboard motor to motor the 3 km’s along the marina canals to the main shopping centre.

The 2.5 hp motor has not been selected for speed, but rather for lightness and economy. It was used about once a year in Sydney and it always started first time. About halfway to the shops, motoring into a building S-E wind, the motor stopped, then restarted for diminishing lengths of time. Soon it could not be coaxed into life. “Dirty spark plug” was “Spanners” Muller’s prognosis. Problem is: no spark plug spanner on board, so Annie rowed the rest of the way to the marina at the shops. On getting out of the dinghy “Sherlock” Schady decided to open the fuel tank cap and peer inside – “No fuel!” she cried. My embarrassment was palpable.

All smiles when the motor works.

All smiles when the motor works.

While she did the shopping at the sailor friendly Aldi supermarket, I hot footed it a couple of km’s down the road to a Supercheap Auto shop to purchase yet another fuel jerry can, 2-stroke oil and a spark plug spanner. Filled the tank with fuel at a Shell servo another km up the road and met Annie at Aldi. Once the outboard tank was filled, the motor roared into life.

But wait, there is more: getting back to the boat, I decided to check and clean the spark plug anyway. Supercheap’s $15 plug spanner handle broke off at the first attempt to get the plug out. No problem, I have a vice grip in my selection of tools and soon the plug is out – as clean as a baby’s skin. So after a visit to the laundromat with a few more stops and starts, we decided to explore Mooloolaba on Monday.

Mistake, the motor is now worse than before and will go for about 50 metres before cutting out, resulting in Annie using foul language as she is forced to row. We have lunch at the fish markets with a soothing bottle of Villa Maria sauv blanc, before confronting the outboard again. Same story.

Lunch

Lunch

Today, I stripped the little bastard and it seems the fuel filter is clogged up and needs replacement. So, new spark plug and fuel filter at the next port, or possibly, a service.

%*!@#$&!!

%*!@#$&!!

Tomorrow we head North to Wide Bay Bar to motor up the Great Sandy Strait behind Fraser Island to Hervey Bay.

Four weeks underway: We don’t like cruising ……. we love it!

Today marks four weeks underway and it has been a week since we last posted on this blog. The week has been rather busy, but now that we have arrived in Mooloolaba, we are catching up with everything – emails, laundry, shopping etc.

Last Monday was spent sorting out admin, re-vittling and motoring back to Bum’s Bay near the Gold Coast seaway. After doing a long walk along the spit, we motored up the Broadwater to pick up a mooring at Paradise Point, conveniently close to Danie and Esme Maritz’s house.

We haven’t seen them for quite a while, so their visit for sundowners on board, turned into dinner and a very late night. This was repeated the following night at their place to return the compliment. Having recovered, we decided to take the route North, inside South and North Stradbroke Islands to Moreton Bay.

There are a number of channels between a maze of islands and mangrove forests, so we took the main channel which we thought could accommodate Esprit’s 2.20m draft. Early in the piece we struck the sand bank shoals off Woogoompah island and had to spend an hour waiting for the tide to reach it’s maximum level, to get through.

Watching the shoals for an hour!

Watching the shoals for an hour!

The channels, although well marked, silt up and is not for the faint hearted deep draft boat sailor. We eventually entered Moreton Bay in the South and motored in a strong Northerly into the lee of Peel Island where we put down the anchor at 4pm. This was a welcome stop followed by a few calming whisky’s.

The beach on Peel Island

The beach on Peel Island

The following morning dawned beautifully with a light wind and we had a long walk on the southern shores of the island. We were amazed by the thousands of blue crabs scurrying along the low water mark as we walked past.

Annie to the left, crabs to the right

Annie to the left, crabs to the right

Moreton Bay is a huge stretch of water with many shoals and sandbanks – not an easy place to sail. We nevertheless hoisted the sails and gingerly worked our way around the channel markers to sail North to Moreton Island. We were tempted to sail up the Brisbane river to the city and the South Bank, but having visited Brisbane many times, decided we would rather see the Tangalooma wrecks off Moreton Island. We anchored behind the wrecks at 3pm.

Tangalooma wrecks

Tangalooma wrecks

The 300m line of wrecks of 15 harbour work vessels were dumped between 1964-1984 to form an emergency harbour on that side of the bay. Today it is a very popular dive site. “Tight Lines” Schady thought it would be a good spot for fishing, so I rowed the dinghy around the wrecks while she tried to fish. Against the tide and wind, the going was slow.

Dirk's " Slow mo fishing charters"

Dirk’s ” Slow mo fishing charters”

There was a beautiful sunset whilst we BBQ’d some lamb chops and vegies on the Baby Q, washed down with Cab Sav.

Tangalooma sunset

Tangalooma sunset

Saturday dawned clear and sunny with zero wind, so the 54 hp Yanmar was started, for a 6 hour journey, following the shipping channels out of Moreton Bay, past Caloundra to Mooloolaba. On the way, we passed the Glasshouse mountains inland and arrived in Mooloolaba at 2:30pm to anchor.

Glasshouse mountains

Glasshouse mountains

Today we will explore Mooloolaba, which is a pretty coastal centre and visit the laundromat, supermarket and bottle shop. During the four weeks of our trip we have tied up in marina’s for four nights at a cost of $40/night.

Accommodation for the month: $160!

 

After the storm

Yesterday

Yesterday

Well, the storm lasted for well on 30 hours – torrential rain and wild winds. After midnight last night, the wind abated and we woke up to a sunny day this morning – the wind have shifted 180 degrees to the West. The water in the marina is a muddy brown from the run off upstream.

Today

Today

The superyacht berths offer exclusivity, which Esprit could get used to!

I say!

I say!

Having filled up the diesel tank on Friday and being holed up all day yesterday, I had the opportunity to look at Esprit’s fuel consumption.

We have sailed and motored about 1,000km in the last 3 weeks and used 129.15l of diesel @ $1.33/l at SYC = $171.77. The 129.15l was consumed over 47.2 hours of motoring at about 2,000 rpm. This means the 54 hp Yanmar engine consumes 2.73l/h, costing us $3.63/h. We do about 6-7 knots/h so the cost per nautical mile is about 60c/nm. Eat your hearts out stinkboats!

I also pulled out the angle grinder this morning to cut the spinnaker pole down from 5.5m to 4.9m to clear the forestay. Drilled out the pop rivets and managed to line up the holes for the pole fitting, using s/s self tappers. Why didn’t you lend me your spare pop rivet gun Malcolm?

Bris Vegas

Our last post from Byron Bay showed a photo of huge Cumulus clouds rolling in from the East. This was a precursor to an East Coast low developing right here.

Clouds rolling in over Byron Bay

Clouds rolling in over Byron Bay

When the wind turned East, we realised that it was time to get to Tweed Heads or the Gold Coast Seaway to get to shelter. We sailed through a number of squalls on the way.

On with the wet weather gear.

On with the wet weather gear.

Tweed Heads bar was a mess of breaking waves, so we pushed on to the Gold Coast, occasionally getting a view of the high rise buildings, between squalls.

Surfers Paradise skyline

Surfers Paradise skyline

After passing some of Australia’s tallest apartment buildings we motored into the manmade Gold Coast Seaway to put down an anchor in Bum’s Bay for Thursday night.

Gold Coast living

Gold Coast living

On Friday our computers delivered the following alert:

NSW Severe Weather Warning: Damaging Winds & Heavy Rain
Source: Bureau of Meteorology

for DAMAGING WINDS, HEAVY RAINFALL, ABNORMALLY HIGH TIDES and DAMAGING SURF

For people in the Northern Rivers, Mid North Coast, Hunter, Metropolitan, Illawarra, South Coast, Central Tablelands, Northern Tablelands and parts of the Southern Tablelands and North West Slopes and Plains Forecast Districts.

Issued at 12:10 pm Friday, 3 June 2016.

SEVERE WEATHER FOR EASTERN NEW SOUTH WALES

An east coast low is forecast to develop off the southern Queensland or northern New South Wales coast late Saturday, and then expected to move southward on Sunday.

DAMAGING WINDS from the NORTHEAST, averaging 60 to 65 km/h with peak gusts in excess of 90 km/h are possible from Saturday afternoon through to Sunday along much of the coast.

Winds are expected to ease and turn northwesterly in the far north early Sunday.

HEAVY RAIN which may lead to FLASH FLOODING is possible in the north Saturday afternoon and over the remainder late Saturday or early Sunday.

Weekend rainfall totals of 80 to 150 mm are likely for much of the area with localised falls between 200 to 300 mm.

ABNORMALLY HIGH TIDES which may cause sea water flooding of low lying areas are possible.

Annie made a few calls to the various marinas close to us and secured a berth at the Southport Yacht Club for two nights. Esprit looked somewhat lost in the superyacht berth allocated to her, but we made sure we she was well tied up. By 5 pm the first wind and rains hit us, just as Marty and Sue who we had invited to dinner, arrived in their dinghy. They managed to get a berth at Mariners Cove Marina next to us.

The rain and the wind was mind boggling, but we had a jolly dinner until they found a short lull in the rain at about 10 pm to motor back to their boat. At about 11 pm we became aware of a persistent cannon like sound near us. On the next marina arm was a yacht busy losing it’s jib as the self furler was unwinding and the wind flogging the sail to pieces. I was looking for a break in the sheets of rain to try and rewind the furler for the absent owner, but this was not to be. Lesson for all yachties: wind your jib sheets at least 5 times around the furled sail in severe winds.

This morning dawned with the sail in shreds and the wind still howling. In the meantime, a bleak Southport is in our stern view. The wind is expected to peak at about 4pm before a Westerly will kick in, bringing sunshine by Monday. A day for catching up with emails and reading, enjoying great coffee from our little Aldi coffee maker!

Heavy rain!

Heavy rain!

 

 

 

Byron Bay

Time moves on! Since the Clarence river, we have had an excellent sail to Ballina where we have spent 3 nights. Karen visited us on Sunday evening on the boat on her way back from Brisbane where she attended a course.

Kazza

Kazza

Mike Wiley also joined us for a drink after racing his skiff on the river. Karen treated us to dinner at the local RSL down the road. Monday was a busy day: Our printer’s wifi connection played up, so I walked 5km there and back to Big W to buy a USB printer cable. Annie did 3 loads of washing at the local laundromat. On Tuesday, Annie had her hair done (a girl has to keep up appearances!) while I did a valet on the inside of the boat, from ceilings to floors. We stocked up with provisions at Woolie’s. Karen picked us up late afternoon for a scenic drive to Lismore, stopping enroute at the Bangalow bowlo for a calming drink after her Fittipaldi driving style.

Karen, Annie and 3 of her mates.

Karen, Annie and 3 of her mates.

Dinner was prepared by her and the 6 guys she shares a beautiful 1895 hospital house with. A lively discussion over much wine about their various medical disciplines followed before she dropped us off at the boat.

At 6:30 today we had to cross the bar at high tide before hoisting the sails at 7:00 for a brisk sail to Byron Bay to the North. We passed Cape Byron, the most easterly tip of Australia at around 11:00 before dropping anchor off the main beach. The clouds rolled in and we have just had a shower.

Cape Byron Lighthouse

Cape Byron Lighthouse

Clouds rolling in over Byron Bay

Clouds rolling in over Byron Bay