Leaving Brisbane on the 10th November at the 2pm high tide, in order to use the outgoing tide while motoring down the river, it still took us three hours to the harbour. There, we were met by a 30 knot Northerly wind, which under jib alone, had us flying downwind to Peel Island, 18 nm to the South in Moreton Bay.
Having got stuck on a sandbank between South Stradbroke Island and the mainland for an hour, on our northward journey six years ago, we carefully timed our passage down this waterway. We left Peel Island at 10am the next day, to reach Jacobs Well at 2pm and motor sail the rest of the 27 nm to Paradise Point on the Gold Coast.
Arriving at Paradise Point, we got hit by massive squalls and a rain storm as we tried three times to anchor in the deluge, finally setting the anchor on the fourth try. Wet and miserable, we took a few calming whiskeys before an early night. It was still drizzling the next morning but cleared long enough to get old friends Danie and Esme Maritz on board for coffee and brownies to celebrate Danie’s 72nd birthday.
It was a winding trip 6 nm up the Coomera River to anchor outside the Boat Works, where we had a jolly BBQ evening with fellow sailors who had their boats on the hard at this yard. It was a slow recovery the next day.
On Monday morning the 15th, Esprit was lifted out of the water, pressure cleaned and parked in a work bay. Xavier from ProYacht set to work and by 4pm had the hull sanded down. The next morning he masked the hull and spray painted it with two coats of Micron Extra 2.
In the meantime Kai had started cutting the dull gelcoat on the topsides and polishing it to a glossy shine. I replaced the anodes on the sail drive, while Xavier applied the Trilux 33 paint around the sail drive and Propspeed to the folding prop.
Annie and I started early and finished late each day, scraping out the adhesive sealant around the entire hull/deck joint and cleaning the joint with acetone, in order for Isaac, to caulk the joint anew. While we had him, Annie got him to do the same with the kitchen and bathroom tops.
After the flat chat programme and to our surprise, all the work was done in three days – having allowed a week on the hard for this. So, Esprit was lifted back into the water again on the Thursday. We filled the tank with diesel and motored down to Paradise Point for a farewell BBQ on board with the Maritz’s, to say thank you for the loan of a car for 4 days.
A night was spent anchored off the Spit at the Gold Coast Seaway for a 5 am start the next morning to sail the 70nm to Ballina in New South Wales. We had a good northerly wind and south flowing current with us and as we sailed into NSW at Tweed Heads, a strong gust ripped the seam of the lowest panel in the mainsail from luff to leach – bummer!
We reefed the main to above the tear and carried on sailing, realising as we passed Australia’s most easterly point at Cape Byron, we were going too fast to enter the bar at Ballina on a rising tide. We dropped the main and with a reduced jib slowed down to 6 knots to reach the Ballina breakwater at low tide at 4pm.
Esprit was tied up to the Ballina public jetty at 4:30, where our daughter Michelle was waiting fo us for an emotional reunion after more than two years. We celebrated with a few G&T’s and had a Spanish Mackerel BBQ to welcome Michelle.
On the Sunday an old school friend Johann Schroder and his partner Felice joined us for tea. Michelle joined us later after surfing, before driving back to Byron Bay to tie up arrangements for her shared office space and a friend to drive her van back to Sydney.
On the Monday Johann picked us up to visit their farm inland at Uki and have dinner with them. This area, from Ballina to Uki in the Tweed River Valley is exceptionally beautiful.
The following day we set off with Michelle to motor sail the 45 nm to Yamba on the Clarence River. We had a hairy entry across the bar, surfing in while fishing boats passed us, going out to sea. A lot of rain was predicted for the next week, so we enjoyed Yamba and did some walks around town and looked at properties.
Here in Yamba there were reminders of two Australian sailing legends, Kay Cottee and Jesse Martin:
On 5 June 1988, Kay Cottee fulfilled a childhood dream. After covering more than 22,000 nautical miles in 189 days at sea she became the first woman in history to complete a solo, nonstop and unassisted voyage around the world. Kay is now the co-owner of the Yamba marina.
On 31 October 1999, at the age of eighteen, Jesse Martin sailed into the record books in his yacht Lionheart, by becoming the youngest person ever to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world. His 34ft Sparkman and Stephens, Lionheart lies at anchor in Yamba.
They are however, not alone: In Western Australia, there is Jon Sanders, the first man to circumnavigate Antarctica solo, circling the continent twice in 1981/2.
In 1986 Sanders set out again from Fremantle, and this time completed three solo non-stop circumnavigations aboard his 47ft yacht Parry Endeavour – each time his course covered both hemispheres.
On the 31 January 2021 Sanders completed his eleventh solo world circumnavigation, which makes the 81 year old one of the oldest persons to sail single handed around the world.
Jessica Watson from Mooloolaba in Queensland did a solo world circumnavigation at the age of 16. Departing Sydney on 18 October 2009, she arrived back in Sydney on 15 May 2010, after 210 days.
Annie and I prefer the more relaxed and mundane cruising way around the world, which took almost six years and allowed us to see new parts of the world. Different strokes for different folks!
Our next stop will be Coffs Harbour – until then, cheers.