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

The Clarence river

We are now in Ballina, but first a report on the time we enjoyed on the Clarence River. If you look at the Clarence river on Google Maps, you will see that it is quite a river navigable all the way up to Grafton. We entered the river at Iluka and Yamba and after spending the first night anchored in the river, we motored upstream to Harwood where the bridge operator stopped the traffic on the Pacific Highway to open the bridge for us. Quite a bit of old world engineering!

The Harwood bridge over the Clarence river

The Harwood bridge over the Clarence river

Motoring through the opened section

Motoring through the opened section

We passed fairly big ships on the river on our way up to MacLean, a lovely town with Scottish heritage up the river.

Vessels on the river

Vessels on the river

We tied up to the public jetty in MacLean, where we were welcomed by Peter (with a strong Scottish brogue) and invited to sign the visitors book and given brochures about the town. We stocked up with groceries and bought fresh fish caught that day in the river. A relaxing evening with Van Morrison, fresh grilled fish and wine followed.

Esprit tied to the jetty at MacLean

Esprit tied to the jetty at MacLean

The following day was spent exploring this delightful town where all the lamp posts are decorated with Scottish clan tartans. A 5km walk up the hill above the town gave us good views of the area and the Clarence flowing back to the sea.

The MacLachlan tartan colours

The MacLachlan tartan colours

View out to sea, some miles away

View out to sea, some miles away

We then motored down river where an obliging Craig Knox opened the bridge for us again to allow us passage out to Iluka where we anchored in the river for the night. We were delighted to see “Now and Zen” on our AIS approaching the bar at the river mouth. Marty and Sue anchored near us and came over for drinks so that we could catch up with their travels since we last saw them in Port Macquarie.

 

Warmer climate? No!

We decided to stay in Coffs Harbour for two nights as I had to fit a replacement water level sensor to our number 1 water tank. The instrument showed half a tank (150l), but the tank was empty. Before departure in Sydney the agents replaced the number 2 tank sensor as it permanently indicated half a tank (100l). This has me a bit concerned about the accuracy of the 200l diesel tank sensor which shows 75% full.

Having learned our lesson on the passage to Coffs by arriving well after dark, we decided to make an early start to Yamba about 60 nm to the North. We left Coffs at 5:30, setting sails at 6:00 and immediately had a good N-W wind, allowing us to enjoy a beautiful, but cold sunrise, sailing past South Solitary Island. Considering this is Big Banana country we were surprised at how cold the wind was on this leg.

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

Good day sunshine

Good day sunshine

We continued North making good progress in a freshening N-W, sometimes a bit wet, as we ploughed through a 1.5m swell from the North.

This is supposed to be warmer!

This is supposed to be warmer!

Wet sea conditions

Wet sea conditions

Check the video below:

IMG_1657

We entered Yamba harbour at 16:00 after a 10 hour passage averaging 6 knots. We anchored in the Clarence river off the town of Iluka and had a few stiff whiskey’s! Also note, you can check our progress on skipr.net by selecting the name Esprit in the drop down menu. This will show you our route and where we are at the moment. Today we plan to motor up the Clarence river to visit the town of MacLean.

Long haul to Coffs Harbour

The distance from Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour is about 68 nautical miles, so in a fair wind we can easily manage 6.8 knots which equates to a sailing time of about 10 hours.

We therefore departed Port Macquarie at 7 am on flat seas with a predicted 15 – 20 knot wind – so all good. However, when we passed Crescent Head the flat sea suddenly built up to swells of 2.5 to 3 metres as a result of the 2 – 3 knot South flowing current fighting with the S-E winds.

Working hard in the following sea.

Working hard in the following sea.

As a result, we had to motor sail at about 2,000 rpm to counter the current and make headway. On passing Smoky Cape, the halfway mark, we realised we were running about an hour behind plan. The sea however reduced in height as we moved out of the current, but soon the wind turned N-E – on the nose, slowing us down. Back to the engine!

We arrived in darkness at 7:30pm at the Coffs Harbour Marina to tie up outside their office. We slept well after that. The next morning we climbed Muttonbird Hill which afforded excellent views of the town and surrounds.

View from Muttonbird Hill

View from Muttonbird Hill

Esprit at Coffs Harbour International Marina

Esprit at Coffs Harbour International Marina

We decided to stay another night at the Coffs Harbour “International” Marina (no less) because of the friendly staff and yachties. The day was spent filling the water tanks and chilling generally.

Adventure before dementia

A friend mentioned the above when we set out. Well, leaving Port Stephens last Thursday and hitting 11 knots flying past Broughton Island in a fresh South westerly, brought this saying to mind. We hope to have more exciting sails like this 45nm leg to Tuncurry and Forster.

Leaving Broughton island behind

Leaving Broughton island behind

We put down an anchor opposite the Fish Co-op and spotted “Now and Zen” who we have seen on the AIS over the last two days of sailing. We invited them over and met Marty and Sue from Western Australia who had sailed their boat from Adelaide in South Australia to this spot.

Esprit from Now and Zen

Esprit from Now and Zen

The next morning we set sail for Camden Haven and carried the spinnaker for half the 40 nautical miles and motored the rest as the wind died down. We made our way up the river and put down the anchor at the village of Laurieton. The next day was spent exploring this area on foot and attempting to climb Big Brother mountain behind the village – we gave up halfway up because it was much higher than what we expected.

At the RSL jetty in Laurieton

At the RSL jetty in Laurieton

We consoled ourselves over a couple of beers before sprucing up for a Saturday night at the local RSL club. We shouldn’t have bothered – the friendly locals go out dressed very casually. We had an early night.

Hiking up to Big Brother

Hiking up to Big Brother

 

The following day we did the relatively short sail to Port Macquarie beating into a freshening North easter. By the time we reached the harbour entry, the sea was probably 2-3 metres and we had a hair raising ride in over the bar, trying not to broach the boat in the breaking waves.

We found a quiet little bay next to the Fish co-op and at 4pm, had what Sue describes as a “calming red”. Graeme and Jenny Smith who happened to be in Port Macquarie for the week joined us and Marty and Sue on board for some extended sundowners.

Monday was spent exploring Port Macquarie, which is a delightful town, before joining the Smith’s for dinner.

Jenny, Annie, Graeme & Dirk

Jenny, Annie, Graeme & Dirk