Back in Airlie Beach

We sailed to Magnetic Island off Townsville two weeks ago, about a 130 nautical miles Northwest of Airlie Beach.

View across to Townsville

View across to Townsville

For anyone looking for a quieter boating experience, the region North of the Whitsundays have much to commend it. As reported in an earlier post, Magnetic Island is a 4 – 5 day sail from Airlie Beach. The various capes and bays along the way are quite spectacular, offering good lee shores for the prevailing Southerly trade winds.

Esprit at Maggy Island marina

Esprit at Maggy Island marina

A planned two-night stay at Maggy island marina, turned into a four-night stay. The hospitality of Lance, the manager and his lovely wife Cammy, plus various boaties like Doug, Paul and Clare, long dinners and drinks was the reason. Difficult to leave, but in the interest of our livers, we motored to Horseshoe Bay on the North shore of the island. The weather then brought much needed rain to the region, resulting in long wet walks on the beach and drinks in the pub for two days. After that, sunshine, swimming and paddle boarding.

Cane toad races at the local pub!

Cane toad races at the local pub!

Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay

South Passage ketch next to us.

South Passage next to us.

We had to return to Airlie Beach to welcome Annie’s brother Joe and his partner Mary, so we set sail South West for a four-day journey to Abell Point marina on the 21st July.

Passing the Abbot point coal loader on the way back.

Passing the Abbot point coal loader on the way back.

We anchored off Saddleback island the last night before we reached Airlie Beach. A beautiful anchorage with Gloucester Island to the North and the passage where we will be attending the Shagger’s parties at the end of August.

Saddleback island

Saddleback island

Annie caught an ocean trout for dinner.

Annie caught an ocean trout for dinner.

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Comments: Two months on.

It has been raining cats and dogs overnight and today looks much the same. I therefore have some time to write what may be a useful post, that not only reports on where we have been.

Some emails we have received have enquired about how the boat is performing, how we are coping with each other’s company and how we can afford this trip. So, we think that some comments on these questions will be helpful for friends thinking about a similar journey in the future.

In the two months since leaving the Pittwater in Sydney, we have logged 1,163 nautical miles to Magnetic Island, off Townsville in tropical Queensland. At 1.852 km per nm, this equates to about 2,150 km.

The boat: The Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 439 has met and exceeded our expectations. We knew that her length and wide beam/transom would be fast for downwind passage making, more so on a beam to a broad reach. We were worried about her ability to beat to windward after sailing many miles on Farr 38’s in the eighties, which were notorious for banging into the wind when close hauled. Modern yacht designs have evolved and with hard chines aft and a sharper entry forward. This results in a relatively civilised close hauled sail, influenced more by wave height and direction, which we allow for in setting our course. She is surprisingly fast and comfortable on this point of sail.

Her off the wind speed is really impressive. For her current loaded weight of about 10 tons, she starts moving well at a wind speed of about 10 – 11 knots, giving us around 6 knots speed over the ground (in a moderate 1 m swell). At about 13 -15 knots, this goes up to 7.5 – 8.5 knots SOG and at 20 – 22 knots she really flies at over 10 knots/hour. On a dead run, which it has been about 50% of the time, we pole out the jib which increases stability.

The layout of the boat is comfortable for the two of us and we have space to move about. The 54 hp Yanmar engine consumes between 2.14 and 2.73 litres of diesel per hour at 2000 rpm and runs like clockwork.

Is there anything that could be improved on? In hindsight we should have ordered a fully battened mainsail with cars for better sail shape and ease of hoisting and lowering. (Mainsail trim meister Schady is hard to please!) Although we have not had any dramas with some tight marina berths, a bow thruster would have been a sensible investment for a boat this size.

The crew: In this department we are fortunate that Annie and I have been sailing together since 1975. There are four things that constantly needs repeating on the boat:

1.) Sail hoisting/lowering. We have quickly worked out our routines, so that happens intuitively every time, without shouting. We are also not fazed by setting up the pole for a dead run or hoisting and lowering the asymmetrical spinnaker when the opportunity presents itself.

2.) Anchoring. The key here is jointly taking note of the tides, discussing it, allowing enough scope and making sure the anchor has properly set. The new SARCA Excel anchor works well and therefore we can sleep well.

3.) Docking in marinas. Always a challenge, particularly with a cross wind, but we plan and discuss this beforehand and have the routine for each of us sorted quite well by now.

4.) Steering the boat. We plot our routes beforehand, allowing for wind shifts and then each of us steer reasonably close to the planned route, using the auto pilot when required.

You have to be comfortable with each other’s company – if you constantly need conversation, you may need to have more people on board. The key to avoiding boredom is reading a lot, discussing the weather ahead and planning what to do at the next stop.

Costs: Being self-funded retirees, we have to manage expenses versus income. Annie keeps spreadsheets for everything – she loves data! Over the last two months we have had the following expenses in 6 categories:

  • Vittles (food and wine): $1,415.20
  • Diesel: $657.40
  • Berthing fees: $637.60
  • Eating out: $518.80
  • Boat equipment/maintenance: $1,367,20 (This includes a one off storm sail and outboard service)
  • Medical fund/Telstra: $650.90

This totals $5,247.10 divided by two = $2,623.55 per month.

As long as your income covers this, you are ahead. Bear in mind though that we have cancelled all our life insurance, as there are no more debts to cover (or to pay ridiculous premiums for, once you are over 65). There is only the car insurance on the little Barina.

Admittedly, there will be a few big ticket items coming up in September, when the boat insurance premium falls due and she needs to be slipped and antifouled and the engine serviced. I estimate this to be about $6,000, which when amortised over the next year, will add $500 to our monthly expenses.

So, I hope this will give our family and friends an idea of what a sailing lifestyle entails and cost. Clearly, we will have more accurate data available after 12 months.

That’s it for today. Happy hour at the pub here in the marina starts at 4pm!

 

 

Airlie beach to Magnetic island

After our red faces at Joe’s beach, we called in at Abell Point marina to fill up with diesel and collect our new storm sail that arrived by Fedex from Hong Kong. We also stocked up with vittles and wine while in town.

Esprit re-fuelling with the Young Endeavour  training ship, dwarfed by the Mickey Mouse ears stink boat.

Esprit re-fuelling with the Young Endeavour training ship, dwarfed by the Mickey Mouse ears stink boat.

Our route took us Northwest to the passage between Gloucester island and the mainland, then to Bowen and on to Cape Upstart where we anchored in the lee.

Sailing through Gloucester passage.

Sailing through Gloucester passage.

Approaching Cape Upstart.

Approaching Cape Upstart.

Paddle boarding in the lee of Cape Upstart

Paddle boarding in the lee of Cape Upstart

The migrating humpback whales lolled next to us as we set off to Cape Bowling Green and then around Cape Cleveland to Magnetic Island. Annie managed to catch a good sized Tuna, which she filleted – we will have some for dinner tonight.

Catch of the day - Tuna!

Catch of the day – Tuna!

Today we took advantage of the cooler weather to motor around the island to Horseshoe Bay, after which we did a beautiful 4 km walk up to the highest point on the island to look at the WW2 gun emplacements and the remnants of the fortifications.

Annie with her new car.

Annie with her new car.

Indigenous man at Horseshoe Bay.

Indigenous man at Horseshoe Bay.

Inside the command post.

Inside the command post.

View from the top across to Cape Cleveland.

View from the top across to Cape Cleveland.

Koala sleeping in a tree next to the track.

Koala sleeping in a tree next to the track.

Our daughters have a varied taste in music. The one genre we can’t fathom is their love of rap and hip hop. Whenever I question this, they reply that they are actually black gals inside white bodies. After two months at sea, Annie remarked on my changing pigmentation. Ironically, they now have a white dad inside a black body!

 

High and dry!

A quick recap: After leaving Mackay, we motored to Brampton island about 21 nm due North, due to no wind. A lazy afternoon doing some stand up paddle boarding and then during the night, the wind swung and we had rocky night, prompting us to leave at 7:30.

Hamilton island

Hamilton island

There was  brisk 20-25 knot SE offshore and we sailed to Goldsmith island, about 10 nm further on. The wind was good, so we decided not to stop as we passed Ladysmith, Thomas, Shaw and Lindeman islands. Before we knew it, we went past Hamilton island and after 40 nm decided to anchor in the lee of Whitsunday island.

Joe's beach on Whitsunday island

Joe’s beach on Whitsunday island

Now, in 12 years of sailing in the Whitsunday islands, we have been blessed with no mishaps, other than dragging our anchor once in Turtle Bay. Missing, was running aground! This we promptly did as we sailed into the pretty and inviting Joe’s beach at 3pm. Low tide was at 6pm, so we had to wait until 9pm before Esprit floated free and we could re-anchor. Red faces!

Esprit's involuntary careening.

Esprit’s involuntary careening.

Waiting for high tide with a calming white.

Waiting for high tide with a calming white.

The following day was spent at the very beautiful Nara inlet, before we sailed across to Airlie Beach to fill up with diesel and do some shopping in town.

Paddle boarding at Nara inlet.

Paddle boarding at Nara inlet.

Rosslyn Bay

Two lovely days at the Rosslyn Bay Marina recharged our batteries (boat and ours). This is the boat harbour for Yeppoon on the Queensland central coast. Friendly staff and cool music greeting you as you walk off the marina. Also, a courtesy car to use to do your vittles and wine shopping in Yeppoon, 8 km’s away.

Look! a smart car just like ours in Sydney.

Look! a smart car just like ours in Sydney.

An afternoon walk around the marina offered some colourful photo opportunities as shown below:

Harbourside housing

Harbourside housing

Sundowner time

Sundowner time

In these parts, the tidal range is quite big compared to Sydney. Here it is between 2.5 to 3.1m as can be seen by the marks on the marina piles. Photo at low tide.

The tide marks on the piles!

The tide marks on the piles!

Hi, we are still going strong!

Wow! It’s been about a week since we last posted a report. Problem was, we have been more than 60 nm offshore and hence, no mobile, and therefore no internet or VHF reception (which is quite liberating!)

OK kids, no reason to call in Marine Rescue (called Coast Guard in Queensland), we are still alive and kicking and enjoying every moment of this journey.

So, to catch up: After cleaning out Woollie’s and Dan Murphy’s in Yeppoon, and forgetting to do our early vote for the federal election, we set forth towards the Great Barrier Reef. First stop was just South of the Defence Force artillery area, where we ran out of reception. We anchored in Pearl Bay after a 50 nm run and popped a bottle of Spanish sparkling wine to celebrate tenants in all our investment properties and a bonus payment from Coldbuster for increased sales of 31% compared to the same quarter a year ago.

It was a bit of a windy and rocky night, so we sailed to Hunter island in the Duke group the next day, where we anchored in the lee for a quiet night. The next day was a doddle, with the current taking us out to sea at 10.5 knots to South Percy Island where we anchored on the North shore to seek shelter from the predicted 30 knot Southerly, in the lee of the island.

South Percy island

South Percy island

We had a good anchorage just outside the fringing reef in sand, in about 10m of water. Saturday was very relaxed whilst we sat out this buster, in sunshine and in the nuddy as we were the only boat in sight. “Tight lines” Schady managed to catch 2 coral  trout and a potato cod for dinner. They looked decidedly undersized after their heads and the tails were removed by the fish woman.

Catch of the day

Catch of the day

On Sunday we lifted anchor and had a wonderful sail to Digby island where we arrived at 3pm. We had an appalling night with currents on the beam, rocking the boat. We were glad to lift anchor today and had a good sail in an Easterly to Mackay harbour where we are in the marina tonight. Beware of the Hay Point coal loader – we sailed through an ocean parking area of 28 huge cargo vessels waiting in line to be loaded!

These southern islands are quite barren

These southern islands are quite barren

Glad to be back in reception – tomorrow, we are taking the bus into town to do some shopping before we sail North to the Whitsundays. Cheers!