Thursday, April 27, 2017

Heading North: Brisbane to the Whitsundays

It was with much anticipation that we collected Granny (Dave’s mom, Rosemary) from the Brisbane Airport on April 10th. She had had quite a trip, from Tampa to Dallas, to Honolulu to Brisbane; which included first a delay, then a cancellation, then an overnight stay in Dallas due to the cancellation, which led to missing the flight to Honolulu, then, when finally getting to Honolulu, the plane to Brisbane skidded off the runway due to a brake failure!! She finally arrived, very much delayed and very, very tired!

Granny finally arrives that the airport!  The kids are thrilled!
We spent another 2 days in Brisbane, and then made our final journey back down the Brisbane River. Our friends on “Nogal” were not far behind, and, after a nice sail across Moreton Bay, we rafted up with Nogal just off the Tangalooma Wrecks. We spent some time snorkeling the wrecks, and then the kids had some fun playing on their new SUP paddleboards. A family of dolphins decided this looked like fun and joined them! Benjamin, Gaby and Sophie were so close to the dolphins, they could have touched them!

Ben, Gaby and Sophie play with the dolphins.  You can see one coming up for air right behind Ben as well!

I love this picture of Sophie with a dolphin
Sophie and Gaby on the paddleboards

Rosemary enjoys watching the sun set at Tangalooma

We had a lovely evening with Frank, Marilia, Julia and Sophie, and Marilia’s mom and sister Maga, who had also joined them in Brisbane, having flown in from Brazil the day after Rosemary. So it was a merry band that gathered on Cool Runnings for drinks and a BBQ!

Party on Cool Runnings!  
The next morning, we both headed off toward Mooloolaba, about 40 miles north of Brisbane. We had stayed here for one night in December on our way down from Bundaberg. Granny, the kids and I enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the shops and cafés of Mooloolaba, while Dave washed down the boat and made some new acquaintances in the marina. He met Richard Holloway, a fellow South African, who had also sailed with Dave way back when. Richard is now a delivery captain, and has also been a captain in the Whitsundays for many years, so he was a great resource for getting information on our next destination! Thanks, Richard for your advice and continued help on the way up! 

Frank took this cool (no pun intended) photo of us with our spinnaker up on the way to Mooloolaba, with the Glass House Mountains in the background.

Rosemary enjoys the sail up to Mooloolaba
We decided to stay an extra day as the kids (and adults) were invited to a “boat kid birthday party”! Daniella on “Dragonfly” was turning 11, and we stayed to enjoy the birthday celebrations. I had been in contact with Heidi on “Dragonfly” for a while via email, but we had never met, so it was great to finally meet her, Jeff and Daniella! Along with “Dragonfly”, we also met another South African family on “Noah’s Ark”, so there were plenty of kids to play on the beach in the morning, and then everyone headed back to the marina for a BBQ. Dave and I also took the opportunity to go to the supermarket and provision.

Gaby and Julia on the beach at Mooloolaba

"The Grannies" enjoying the beach too

The kids from Nogal, Dragonfly, Cool Runnings and Noah's Ark at the birthday party

The following day we headed out again, and sailed towards Wide Bay Bar, which is the entrance to the Great Sandy Straits. We anchored offshore, just south of the entrance so that we could time our bar crossing at slack tide the next day. It was a rolly night, with the swell from the ocean consistently sneaking in behind the headland. The Wide Bay Bar is rather notorious, and we didn’t realize how bad it could get, until we read an article in a magazine a few days prior to crossing it, about a catamaran, about our size, that pitch-poled while trying to cross the bar. When we had gone out of here back in December, it was fine, and we hadn’t been too concerned about it until we started reading more about it, and talking to other sailors. Unfortunately it had been blowing strong South Easterlies for days on end, and the swell was big. Even the marine weather warning was for “deceptively large swell, making crossing bars dangerous”. Great. The swells were 3.5 meters and every now and then waves broke across the entire bar in huge sets, so it was pretty intimidating and dangerous looking! We battened down the hatches (literally), and all put on life jackets. We watched the swells and breaking waves for a while to establish a pattern, and when we saw a break, Dave gunned the engines and we went for it. We had breaking waves all around us, and surfed the swell in. Many a time there were foaming waves cresting behind us, but never actually breaking on top of us. We had received the coordinates for the entrance from the Tin Can Bay VMR (Volunteer Marine Rescue) the day before, so we knew where the best possible area was to cross over. We had one section to cross, then we had to turn, bearing 238 degrees and line up some markers. We did this, and, after what seemed like forever, we were finally in calm water! We had crossed our final bar – one thing we won’t miss about cruising in Australia!!

Gaby gives a thumbs up after crossing the bar!
After that heart-stopping beginning to the day, we had a gorgeous sail in calm water, with only our jib up, all the way up the Great Sandy Strait, the water being protected by Fraser Island on the east. That evening we anchored near the top of the Strait, still enjoying the peaceful, calm waters. This was also the anniversary of our trip – we had left home one year ago to the day – so we had a family movie night, and the kids chose to watch “Captain Ron”. It was great fun, even though we had all seen the movie before, it never gets old!

Jib up and enjoying a peaceful sail in the Great Sandy Straits

We made brownies to celebrate our 1 year anniversary!

Enjoying the sunset

Sunset in a calm anchorage - that's what we enjoy!

The next morning, we headed out into Hervey Bay, and had a brisk sail, with winds up to 20+ knots up to Bundaberg. It was nice coming back into Bundaberg, this having been our first port of entry into Australia, almost 5 months previously. We stayed at the marina, once again staying longer than planned, as we did a few maintenance jobs, and having all the resources at our fingertips (chandlery, sail maker etc), it made sense to just stay and get the jobs done there. We were pleasantly surprised to find our friends on “Molly Laprena” there (we had met them in December on our way south), and we also heard “Hello!” on the dock one day, and Kim, Claudia, Lenja and Neele from “Elas”, whom we had met in Brisbane, had just arrived. On Friday night, “Nogal” arrived, and Ben and Gaby had a happy reunion with Julia and Sophia. Rosemary has come to realize what a social life this boating life can be, as we seem to meet old and new friends all the time! 

Boat kids...with Lenja and Neele of "Elas"
After 3 days in Bundaberg (and another HUGE provisioning run – they had a great Aldi in Baraga, just 15 minutes from the marina by car, and believe it or not, that Aldi happened to have a special on all things South African, so I was able to buy Ouma’s rusks, Mrs. Ball’s chutney, biltong, droe wors, Steers Monkey Gland sauce and Chocolate Logs!!! Sorry for all those who don’t know what I’m talking about, but all South Africans will understand!), we headed out again. 

Just some of the supplies...

Just a few more!  Where to put it all...???!!!

Some of the items in the South Africa section:  Ouma rusks...Steers sauces...Ceres Fruit Juice and Durban Curry sauces!

We had a long, relatively rough ride to a place called Pancake Creek, where we anchored for the night. We had to run the engines for extra speed so we could make it in daylight hours. Our days now are much shorter, with the sun going down at 5:30pm, and it is pitch black by 6:00pm. This cuts into sail time and the distance you can cover in one day quite dramatically. The following day we were headed to Keppel Island, our original plan being day hops up the coast until we reached the Whitsundays. However, after a conversation with Nogal, who were a day behind us, we all decided to bite the bullet, and go overnight, so that we could just reach our destination. So as the sun set on Sunday night, April 23rd, we headed into the first overnight sail since our passage from New Caledonia to Australia. That day, night and the next day were not fun – it was a washing machine out there, and the boat and its occupants were tossed around like a rubber duck in a bath tub (with a toddler in it). 

Onwards, ever onwards...heading north

Nogal, being much faster than Cool Runnings, not only caught up, but then overtook us on the morning of April 24th. This allowed for a great photo opportunity, as you don’t often get photos of your own boat under sail! Both boats had their spinnakers up, and cameras clicked furiously away as Nogal came gliding past! 

Nogal under sail

By Monday afternoon, we both made it to Scawfell island, and decided to anchor there for the night, a nice respite from the rough past 2 days and night. We had all agreed that we would make the final sprint to Airlie Beach the next day, putting us right in the heart of the Whitsundays, our long desired destination! Nogal was looking for stinger suits (full length light neoprene or lycra suits that are recommended for swimming in these waters due to a dangerous jelly fish called Irukanji), and Cool Runnings had developed an oil leak in the starboard side sail drive, so we needed to find a mechanic to confirm what David feared...a bearing that would need to be replaced. And so we upped anchor, early on Tuesday morning, and started enjoying a calmer sail through the southern group of the Cumberland Islands. Over the radio Frank (on Nogal), informed us that they had caught a nice tuna (Sophie emphasized that it was a pink lure that caught it!), and in a dramatic fly-by, Julia, with a very impressive hand, tossed a beautiful fillet of raw tuna to us, to enjoy as sushi! Thanks, guys!! It was absolutely delicious!!

Happily anchored in Scawfell Island

Sunrise as we left on our final leg to Airlie Beach

Nogal's fly by - Julia just tossed the tuna to us!

It's a little scary having this huge catamaran so close to you!  Nogal pulls away after the fish toss!

On our sail to Abell Point Marina in Airlie Beach, we passed through the Whitsunday passage, with Hamilton Island on our left, and Whitsunday Island on our right. It was amazing, and sad to see the obvious devastation that had been left by cyclone Debbie, who had rolled through here not quite a month before. We saw some resorts that were absolutely destroyed, and all the trees that were left, were just bare trunks and branches, all the leaves having been stripped off by winds of 260km/hr (160 miles/hr). 

This resort is completely destroyed

We came into the marina on Tuesday afternoon, and here we are, stuck again. It ain’t all roses, I tell you!! The mechanic from the local Yanmar dealer was not able to come the first day we were here (Wednesday), but he did come this morning (Thursday). He confirmed that the shaft, bearing and oil seal that connects the sail drive to the main engine was leaking, and that the bearing needs replacing. That’s a cool $600 for the bearing and $100/hr for his time (he was here for about 5 hours). On top of that, it is costing us about $130/night to stay in this marina, which is extremely frustrating when there are beautiful cruising grounds with gorgeous anchorages, just an hour’s sail away. But that’s the cost of cruising, we’ve discovered. 

Marina life...Dave gives Gaby a ride in a trolley we use to transport stuff.  The pylons are huge, primarily due to the big tidal ranges (this was at low tide, so you can see the hill Dave has to climb to get off the dock).  We were told that during cyclone Debbie the water came to just below the white caps on these pylons!

We are, nonetheless, looking forward to exploring the Whitsunday islands a little more before our continuous journey north. Before we do that, however, we have a birthday to celebrate! Benjamin turns 13 on Saturday (yikes!  A TEENAGER!!!), and Julia, on Nogal, turned 12 last Sunday. So our plan is to do a joint birthday celebration for the kids on Saturday…what a year for birthdays it has been: Gaby in Sydney, me in New Zealand, Ben in the Whitsundays, and Dave…probably in the Seychelles!  It's a tough life (yes, sometimes it REALLY is, I promise!!), but someone has to do it!!

1 comment:

  1. Great blog as always. Say hi to Rosemary. Planes with failing brakes is really scary! I'm always amazed at how many people you've met and how many people are doing this with kids. And the the things you guys, but especially Ben and Gaby, experience is just so amazing. It must be difficult to process it. Extraordinary stuff on a daily basis. Thanks for sharing