August 28, 2011
Charon’s Queensland Adventure
Wide Bay, Fraser Island and Bundaberg.
28th August 2011
Being captain of a vessel – if you take it seriously enough – is a full time business and can be relentless if you are dealing with people, both on board and on shore, as well as the rig, hull, mechanical, electrical, medical, structural, provisioning, black water, grey water, fresh water, alcoholic water, beer, wine and spirits, bond store, excursions, anchoring, mooring, arranging berths, supplies, stores, spares and servicing. Many little jobs get done while cruising, like fixing the door catches that move underway and splicing bits of rope and checking the engines. Some others need some stability – both of motion and access to service and supplies, like servicing the outboard and major engine work and climbing the masts.
Fortunately Wendy does most of the provisioning and is very engaged and active in shipboard decision making, passage planning and entering and leaving a berth. The lines are singled up and the stuff of life that accumulates while steady are stowed and mobile objects like the telly strapped down and secured.
Bundaberg was to give us both the kind of rest that would seem to be unnecessary after only three weeks cruising – but after a significant grounding and a thunderstorm and abandoning guests and crew on the world’s largest sand island, it is nice to tie up in a safe haven and go exploring. The Pardey’s advise cruisers to do everything humanly possible to secure your vessel – but when you leave it for any time, just forget about it. There is a tendency to be anxious when the wind blows and if you know your home is secure, you can explore with a much more calm disposition.
After leaving Wide Bay, we enjoyed two evenings at anchor in the lee of Fraser Island finally at Lagoon Anchorage in Platypus Bay before the day trip to Bundie. We planned three days while the weather abated and ended up staying ten days. There were certain attractions! First, the Bundaberg Port Marina reduced our rate after five days to the weekly rate and pro rata thereafter. Second the marina offered a free courtesy bus to the big smoke and the market on Sundays. As well they offered cheap rent-a-car rates and free bicycles to explore Burnett heads and go to the local IGA supermarket. They were also very hospitable and wonderful people. And Bundy has a famous Rum Distillery. We took the Marina courtesy bus there on our third day and were rum tasting by 11.00AM. Not sure about the rest of the day – but it was a good one. We picked up some spares for Charon, visited the RSL and enjoyed an evening at the movies – “Red Dog” – a real good Aussie tear jerker.
The rental Camry allowed us a day trip to the communities south of Burnett heads, Childers, Gin Gin and also provision for the next two weeks or so away from civilization. The Bundaberg Botanical gardens were a good place for a walk and to see the history of Bert Hinkler – Australia’s famous aviator and first to fly from England to Australia in the 1920’s. We also enjoyed two Sunday nights at the Blue Waters Club at Burnett Heads – the first winning $70 in the cash raffle and a seafood voucher at “Grunske’s by the River.” Our second visit realized a chicken and vegie tray and the cook farewelled us with two packaged meals of Shepherd’s Pie and some chicken drumsticks. Great place, gracious people and wonderful hospitality. We decided to slip Charon at Bundaberg Port Marina on our return and leave her there over the summer on the hardstand.
As the weather cleared and the strong 30-knot south-easterlies abated, we left the marina for Lady Musgrave Island at 0400. We were aground at 0405 after leaving the marina by 13 meters – a bit more than a boat length. Caught between the fingers so to speak! Afloat by 0420 and a throttle blast to enter the channel.
August 26, 2011
Charon’s Queensland Adventure
26th August 2011
Wide Bay and Hervey Bay
It all started like this…
After running aground in the Mary River, we met up with two mates of Wendy’s from Alice Springs (fellow bush campers Wayne and Anne) and took them out for a couple of days on the Bay. Pick up was from Urangan Fuel wharf – took on fuel and water and headed off into Hervey Bay whale watching No whales for us though – we anchored inside Moon Point and had a quiet but slightly rolley evening. A safe anchorage in the pretty mild northerly; Wide Bay is riddled with sand banks and gutters and the navigation is challenging. The lady at the marina said that anyone who has not run aground in the Sandy Strait is a liar!!!
The following morning after a late start – we motored south, back into the Sandy Strait and decided Susan River overnight and a day trip with lunch to the Kingfisher resort on Fraser Island.
Thats where the fun started!
Anchoring off the resort was tricky as the shore shelved – 15 metres to 3 metres in a boat length – but another yacht was there and we decided though the weather was backing – westerly would be OK as forecast. Ashore at dead low tide was challenging as the up-market Kingfisher resort had about a foot of mud at low tide – looked like sand – but not!!!
I took Anne and Wayne ashore first and they promptly sank into the mud. Crocs disappeared! There was also a slight surf building. Just a little splashing as we stepped from the dinghy to the – MUD. Anne had exacerbated her frozen shoulder and had a bit of pain. On the way up the – er – beach, suction got the better of her and she fell backwards in the thick black mud, much to the entertainment of the blokes fishing on the wharf.
I picked up Wendy and dragged the dinghy a half-mile up the mud – then sand – to the half-tide mark. Ashore to the cafe for lunch and clean Anne’s bum in the public toilets - black back – lovely pink trousers at the front. Not a happy camper and dripping in Fraser Island mud but looked good front on! Sand Island indeed!
As the clouds gatherer and the wind picked up Wayne and I headed back to the Beach to check Charon at anchor. The dinghy was awash and the beach becoming ugly. The sky was black! The forecast said fine and sunny – chance of Thunder. The ranger at the jetty kiosk called us over to look at weather radar (the Kiosk had weather radar!!!). Ugly. A huge storm was coming from inland near Childers. We decided to abandon Fraser and head off the shore. Wayne went back to collect the girls, who by this time had realised that a walk ashore was not a good idea anyway.
I managed to get the dinghy in the water and row through the surf but the waves bumped the outboard off one of its brackets as it bottomed in the sand. NOW WE HAVESANDALREADY! The outboard clamps were locked against theft so I kept the dinghy headed into the waves with one oar to avoid being swamped – the surf was challenging for an 8-foot dinghy. The key to the outboard lock was in my pocket – fumbled with the key and one oar – repositioned the OB. Started after three pulls before broaching! I realised that I would never get back to the shore – let alone take passengers – and probably not to Charon intact! Had life jacked on thank God! Motored to Charon as she was ducking her bow under the oncoming waves and the sky blackened further!!! Not too much wind though! I took about ten minutes to get up the courage to jump onto Charon as the stern bucked in the chop. Hit my head on the davits while sitting in the dinghy as she was pitching so much!!
The lurching dinghy painter wanted to pull me back off as I lumbered on. The anchor chain was heaving on the foredeck and Charon’s 15 tons pulling back as the chop grew. I waved to Wendy, Wayne and Anne ashore to signal that I was OK. Wendy by this time had got to the Park Ranger’s desk and with superb radio skills – confirmed that we would go our separate ways – Wendy and our guests by Fraser Island barge and bus to Urangan, I would just get the bloody hell out of there. Wayne’s car keys were on Charon. His car was at Urangan!!!
The anchor chain jammed in the windlass and the chain kept coming off the gypsy as the bow heaved in the swell. Too much strain and the clutch gave out meters of anchor in a run! I set the autopilot and the engine in 1/4 ahead to help reel in the anchor chain. It jammed again and I ended up inching it up with the chain hook and lashing the rope anchor pennant onto a cleat during the lull and winding on the winch during the heave.
Eventually gave up the anchor winch as a bad joke and once the anchor broke out I manhandled the last 7 meters of chain and the 25Kg ROCNA anchor onto the deck as Charon headed for the beach and the other anchored yacht. The pressure on the winch had been huge!
The autopilot took her off the lee shore slowly and all was well – thanks to a reliable engine. Never anchor on a lee shore!!!
The exciting bit was still to come as the rain pissed down and the lightening flashed and thunder roared. Not much wind – just zero visibility and much concentration on navigating through the sand banks with occasional looking out to starboard for other boats. Of course there were none! I turned the radio off to avoid attracting lightning – read that somewhere! The incoming tide run at three knots and of course I was heading into it. Thank god for GPS and Radar. I managed 2.5 knots to 3.5 knots SOG into the tide for the four-hour trip to Urangan that would normally take a bit over an hour.
At the peak of the storm (lashing rain, thunder and lightning) the wind came – gusting 30 knots, but consistently over 20. Charon went well and I sucked on the half bottle of warm cola left in the cockpit as I had an adrenaline-dry mouth. I could not venture into the cabin as by this time the tide and wind were against each other and the water very uncomfortable – certainly no better than our last night on the way to Batemans Bay last year off the NSW coast. The hours went by and progress was agonisingly slow. I considered many times turning south and heading to our original destination of the sheltered Susan River.
I eventually turned west around Woody Island to Urangan Boat Harbour. This time the roll started and Charon’s contents that remained intact after the grounding were tossed about. I managed to jamb some paper between two clanking wine bottles and find an annoying empty stubby that banged around in the gas locker. I forgot about the unsecured anchor on the foredeck and was quite prepared to lose the dinghy and outboard bouncing behind on its painter. No way could I use the davits!
Wendy had managed to blend in with the tourists heading home and got a free ferry trip to River Heads on the Fraser Barge, and then caught the tourist bus back to the Boat Club at Hervey Bay – covering up Anne’s muddy back and bum by walking close behind her.
The last hour was appallingly rough as the strong northerly funneled into Hervey Bay and Charon rolled beam on to the sea. Turning to the south for the run into the boat harbour was a relief and Wendy, Wayne and Anne were waving their mobile phones towards a berth that I had booked over the phone on the way.
I entered the harbour in fairly good conditions – the storm had passed and a few stars twinkled in the sky – Oh yeah – I did most of this in the dark! – Anchor up about 1500 and into the harbour by 2000. Sunset was at about 5.30 with the blackened sky.
I tied up and a grateful reuniting of Captain, first mate and guests back together followed – whiskies all around and BBQ dinner at 10.00.
Man I was knackered!
I will write up “lessons learnt” after Wendy and I do a more formal debrief.
Anne and Wayne had a great four days on board and took us to Woolies today to restock and we head off to Hervey Bay tomorrow afternoon in a south easterly! Then Bundaberg. Yesterdays whale day was calm, easy and uneventful. No Whales! Roast dinner back at the marina and a very quiet night! Still knackered.
In short – no damage to boat, skipper or crew and all ended up well. More experienced and much wiser.
August 12, 2011
Charon’s Queensland Adventure
12th August 2011
Maryborough and Wide Bay
We were the guests of Wendy’s friends Wayne and Anne and spent several days with them exploring the area, meals ashore and at their traditional “Queenslander” Home in Kent Street and doing a few jobs on Charon. It was also a time for mail as their address was convenient and dependable. I had stripped the anchor windlass while on the mooring off the chandlery and Muir in Hobart were able to send new bearings and seals overnight. Great service and a very reasonable price. Also Peppertree Winery also sent us a dozen of their finest wines to restock our cellar. Maryborough was home for a week and Wayne and Anne signed on as crew for a few days the following week.
We departed Maryborough on a falling tide as depths were reasonable and we would anchor before Beaver Rocks and push an incoming tide to safely negotiate the shallows. Anchorage at Susan River sounded very attractive as the Mary River is a long haul.
Bump! Just one section before our designated safe anchorage to await the turn of the tide, we struck bottom and Charon slewed sideways as the outgoing stream pushed us on to a sand bank! I know instantly that we would be there for a while and no amount of running astern would get us off. We were heeled at 10 degrees within minutes. Luckily the bottom was hard sand and fairly flat. I did the calculations and reckoned we would be afloat in five hours. The rule of twelfths was calculated and rechecked and I plugged up the above water openings for bilge pumps and shower sump outlet. Also the heater exhaust was sealed and we waited and prepared lunch. Wendy gingerly opened the day fridge and a stubby of Crown lager flew out. I took it as a sign from God and enjoyed it as Wendy logged the heel. Twenty degrees. Twenty-five degrees. Thirty degrees! Charon finally settled at 34 degrees and we had lunch and attempted to enjoy life at an angle. The dinghy and a walk on the adjacent provided some relief from being horizontally compromised! A photo shoot from the dinghy gave us some purpose and finally I settled on the foredeck for a snooze. I must have been adapting as the heel felt quite comfortable and I enjoyed the sense of helplessness until Wendy announced that we were returning to the vertical! Twenty degrees! And as we went over, we came up – even faster. Before we could make ready, we were afloat and motored off into deeper water. I gave Wendy the helm and she steered us safely over the remaining shallows to a delightful all weather anchorage in the Susan River. I had relied on the plotter position to gauge river centre and not my eyes – despite knowing all too well that in good visibility, eyes are the best tool for navigating.
We caught up with our crew the following day at the fuel wharf in Urangan.
August 04, 2011
Charon’s Queensland Adventure
4th August, 2011
Redcliffe to Maryborough
We departed our Marina berth of some nine months and the manager Vic had helped us free our lines and head out. We had enjoyed the Wednesday evening BBQ’s and supporting neighbours and Newport had really felt like home for the best part of a year – even without us on board.
The tack to Mooloolaba was familiar and we spend more time out of the shipping channels than before. The VMR groups provided us with emergency radio coverage as usual and we logged off at anchor in the Mooloolaba river anchorage in company with a dozen other boats. There was a dredge constricting the narrow entrance channel and certainly would be still there during our early morning exit for the long run to Wide Bay. We had an appointment with the barway a little after midday and needed the sun overhead as much as possible to enter safely.
The second day of our 2011 voyage also proved uneventful – simply motoring and motor-sailing in light conditions – ideal for the notorious wide bay bar – with sections called the “mad mile” and the “washing machine!” We were in company with two other boats as we radioed Wide Bay VMR (Volunteer Marine Rescue) and followed another yacht in. That vessel did a wide 360-degree turn and ended up following us in! The GPS coordinates were essential and confidence in your plotter as the leads were not visible and the “bright white light” almost a figment of one’s imagination. I thought I could see the directional beacon and its tiny white blob amongst the trees on Hook Point – but would not without a degree of confirmation from the plotter track. The “mad mile” was not too crazy and we entered the main entrance channel and sought anchorage in Pelican Bay.
No water! No water anywhere – just shallow channels and furrows culminating in dead ends. We settled in Pelican bay after some false starts and spent a restful evening enjoying Charon’s new BBQ.
The following afternoon we motored to Tin Can bay and found a safe anchorage off Snapper Creek among other anchored boats. After the obligatory chat with other Hobart vessels (there are usually some ex pats who left Tasmania eight years ago and never went back) we explored Tin Can Bay, watched the dolphins feeding, had coffee and a drink at the Yacht Club and reprovisioned.
As we were dinghying back to Charon after a visit ashore we were beckoned over to an anchored catamaran by a crewmember who noticed out Hobart hailing port. We were equally stunned to find that the crewmember was Garry, a friend from our local tennis club and aquatic club back at Nubeena. He didn’t know it was us and we didn’t know it was him! We enjoyed a cuppa on board Larry’s cat and arranged social tennis the following morning. Larry spends the winter up North (wherever that is!) and was anchored in Tin Can Bay. We received the royal tour of Tin Can Bay, a great morning of doubles on a grass court and discovered that Larry was an old blues guitarist (playing old blues – not age!) so we promised that if we ever caught up we would have a jam session together as Charon had a piano and Larry carried his guitar.
The following morning as we departed, the anchor still dripping, we motored a boat length to say farewell to Larry and run aground. This was to be the first of several groundings in Wide Bay! Having missed our departure tide for Garry’s anchorage we arranged dinner and a jam session that evening. Larry was vegan and Wendy and I were on a strict protein (read “meat”) diet – so we compromised on a Roast Chook for us, and a plate of vegies for Larry and an hour or so of good ol’ twelve bars.
The following morning we departed for Garry’s anchorage on Fraser Island and enjoyed two evening in quiet isolation among the mangroves – and midgies! The walk ashore was great – no dingoes or crocodiles. Just dog tracks and a few fellow humans.
The second grounding followed the next morning on departure north – only enough to wait ten minutes on a rising tide. The depth sounder was alarmed for two meters and went off over most of Sheridan Flats and at other times just as frequently. After our second grounding we decided to spend the evening at Horseshoe Anchorage in the Mary River and take the rising tide up the river the following day. The tide did just that and the river depths were fine upstream from Beaver Rocks.
July 25, 2011
Charon’s Queensland Adventure
25th July, 2011
Cruising for us – but not for Charon!
Charon, captain and first mate gathered for the start of the 2011 cruising season a little late. Richard had returned to Newport Marina by car late March while Wendy stayed on in Tassie to spend some extra time with family and friends. Charon was in good condition given the cyclones to the North and the Floods to both North and South. The Brisbane River had been in the biggest flood in almost 40 years and Cyclone Yasi had devastated both waterfont, farms and houses around Hinchinbrook Island and Cardwell. The choice of summer storage was wise in reflection. Our neighbour Dave was still sitting on his converted fishing boat sucking on a XXXX and when asked about the appalling weather seemed oblivious to the last four months.
I was able to get in a good three weeks work on installing new house batteries, servicing the fuel injectors and replacing the nozzles, checking and realigning the engine mounts and imported a new raw water pump from the UK after much messing around locally. Three-day delivery! Charon had a new iPod connection and we can now enjoy music from daughter Hannah’s loaned iPod.
Needless to say that much of the work remained invisible, including relocating the shower sump, replumbing the bilge pump and nice new emergency steering that was being fabricated at the local stainless place. Fridges were serviced, pressure pumps rebuilt and serviced and the AIS finally programmed by the agents in Sydney.
I also took retirement and stated that I never intended again to go back to full-time work.
Wendy arrived on the 18th April and we continued to enjoy the company of like-minded souls at the Marina Wednesday night BBQ’s. We also caught up with friends Di and Alec on the Gold Coast and I was able to fit in Advanced Cardiac Life Support course with mate Darren to allow for some part time work offshore. I had a great birthday bash that coincided with the Wednesday night BBQ at the Marina.
Wendy came up with the idea of a side trip to Singapore for her brother Johnny’s birthday – and I added Vietnam – so before we departed cruising, we managed a three week sojourn in South East Asia – fitting in the Singapore Boat Show, good times with Wendy’s brothers Johnny, Greg and Graeme, partners and friends. Vietnam was a very enjoyable place to spend a few weeks – but the complete absence of any sort of yacht, cruiser of pleasure boat on the Mekong was striking. The thought of cruising was foreign to the hard working boat people from the Mekong River Delta.
The day after I received my first retirement payment, my mate Darren called and offered me a 6-week swing working offshore Broome on a survey boat. So much for retirement! We had the opportunity for two nights at Tangalooma late April – now we would be another two months before we get to leave Redcliffe. From Darwin on the way back to Charon, we spent three days tidying her up and again went our separate ways – Wendy to Hobart and Richard to Brisbane for a medical, Perth and then Broome for a one day induction and then straight to mobilization.
The Broome time gave us opportunity to experience a tease of the beauty of the Kimberleys, the mild weather and good people there. In fact a week break in the swing allowed Wendy the opportunity to fly up rather than Richard fly south, so we enjoyed Matso’s boutique beer, great Broome hospitality and side trip to Derby to witness the famous tides.
I flew back to Brisbane mid July and Wendy rendezvoused a week later. More little jobs, finally fitting the emergency steering, installing a TV aerial and afterdeck flood-light – but the benefit of my 6 weeks work was the purchase of a new Sovereign Marine BBQ. It is a wonderful piece of culinary equipment that allows the cook to make smoke and mess away from the confines of the galley. Many thanks to the chandlery at Scarborough for supplying this, and all the fittings.
We dropped the car off at a long-term storage depot in the city, checked out of the marina and motored to Mooloolaba on Tuesday 26th July. A little later than planned - but better late than never!
April 27, 2011
Hello Blog followers.
We are currently at anchor in Pancake Creek Qld waiting for some good weather to head further north. As often happens in such quiet (but windy) anchorages, we have time to write and do our cruising budgets and write up our cruising blog.
Please have a look at our story as we leave Redcliffe Peninsula and take three months north to the tropics – if even for a brief period.
Richard and Wendy
November 12, 2010
It was timely to leave Brisbane and with the AIS now operating, we were able to monitor the 20 or so ships that appeared on our plotter. I had wired the VHF antenna through many metres of stainless tubing on the davits, the intricacies of the aft cabin and engine room and eventually up to the AIS unit in the saloon. What a luxury. We were able to determine the details of shipping, fast ferries and vessels at anchor – in case they suddenly started up and crossed our bows.
We crossed the riddles of the sands known as Moreton bay and anchored at Tangalooma inside the wrecks. What a great place! Beautiful beaches and fascinating wrecks – where we were soon snorkeling and exploring. We met up again with Ron and Peta aboard Finesse – a Nauticat 44 and shared a meal. Ron and I resorted to smoking Cuban cigars to keep the mozzies away and this seemed to work. We all have to make sacrifices!
We had three great days at Tangalooma snorkeling every day, having drinks at the resort and sharing meals with Ron and Peta. This was the first time that we really experienced tropical sailing and the water temperature and weather was conducive to swimming and snorkeling. Wendy and I were exploring the wrecks and came face to face with a wobegong – a shy bottom dwelling shark that lives on crustaceans. I am not sure who was most surprised – but I guess humans and fish that swim at the wrecks do not do so for the solitude – Ron counted 51 boats at anchor on Sunday.
As the weather was forecast for some westerly change, we moved back to the west and took a berth at Scarborough marina where we had the chance to catch up with Ian aboard Rebel. Ian and his partner Janet had come from South Africa and we had met and shared meals together in Kings Pier Hobart. Janet had returned to South Africa and Ian was living aboard Rebel in Scarborough. We knocked on the deck and a white and ghostly apparition appeared. Ian had gone grey and his face was pale. Fortunately after a shower his complexion returned and hair darkened – he had been sanding back the interior of Rebel while Janet was away. A man’s gotta do…
We were delighted to have a visit from Jonathan and his partner Dominique – meeting her for the first time. My son has found a delightful lady and their public displays of affection were refreshing. We shared a chilled bottle of Hunter valley white and a quantity of prawns from nearby Morgans Seafood. Jonathan and Dominique had flown in from Sydney and hired a car to Scarborough for a brief sojourn on the Sunshine Coast. Great to see them both!
We left Scarborough on Wednesday 3rd of November with less than a month of cruising before the cyclone season and our return to Tassie for the summer. We again headed through the riddle of the sands and wove our way north to Mooloolaba where we took a berth at the Wharf Marina for a week. Mooloolaba is wonderful! Apart from the sandy beach and excellent protected harbour, there are shops and restaurants along the esplanade, a fishing village on the spit with fresh seafood and restaurants and plenty of chandlery and provisioning services. Each evening we wandered the esplanade, visiting little bars, enjoying a drink an dancing Saturday night at the Surf Club overlooking the bay.
We also took the opportunity to catch up with family – firstly a day at Wendy’s auntie Betty’s pineapple farm at Wamuran – near Caboulture. Aunty Betty gave us a tour of the packaging plant, drove us to scenic high spots and sent us home with a bag full of fresh, sweet and juicy pineapples. Her pineapple farms supply the major supermarkets – apparent as we explored acres of pineapple plantations. Aunty Betty was a gracious host and a very competent business-woman showing no evidence of retirement.
The following day we caught up with my Uncle Ian and Aunty Pat – after an absence of over 20 years. They had moved from Sandy Bay in Hobart and retired in Caloundra in the 1980’s. Ian is an ex WW2 Liberator Pilot and Pathfinder and volunteers at the Queensland Air Museum so we had an interesting afternoon visiting the museum and even catching up with KAM – an aged and retired Airlines of Tasmania De Havilland Heron.
The days at Mooloolaba rolled on with some afternoon or morning showers, warm and damp days and some rainy nights. The build up to the hot and humid summer was evident – but we still should be able to squeeze out a few more weeks before putting Charon into day care for the summer.
Our last excursion was to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. The memory of the crocodile hunter is ever present in images and memorabilia – but the Zoo is large and animals sparse. Not a bad thing as you had to look hard to see them and there was a sense of spaciousness. The grounds were very pleasant and we enjoyed a good walk around them.
Deciding to extend our stay by two more days to allow for a rest from our side trips, we travelled by dingy up the canals to the local shopping complex at Kawana, Wendy had a haircut, we visited the supermarket and Dan Murphy’s. As we tied our dinghy up at Laurie’s Marina (now Kawana Marina) we met up with Jonno and Denise on Sand Dancer, a Beneateau from London, and were invited for sundowners that evening. They had met five years ago while Jonno was delivering his boat through he Caribbean back to Australia. After a long day shopping, we ended up staying for tea and having the first of several good nights together.
The following morning we departed Mooloolaba for Tangalooma as the weather signaled north easterlies for a few days. The departure was fine – but we soon entered a big swell and a sea that rolled us quite a lot. Before we turned to head south, Charon put her bows under a few times. We learned later that Sand Dancer had left earlier that morning and turned back. Wendy and I both felt a little squeamish and we were glad that we had enjoyed a light breakfast – no bacon and eggs. Life in a marina had made us soft!
We were able to sail most of the journey as the wind was mostly on a reach or a quartering run as we travelled south down Bribie Island and then south east in the spitfire channel, talking with the big ships that we had identified on AIS as being in our channel. We moved from the channel and received a hearty wave from an officer on the port bridge wing. The pilot expressed his appreciation for our listening watch on channel 12.
We arrived at Tangalooma Friday afternoon – a good tactic as the place fills up on the weekend and a good position is handy. Saturday we spent diving in the wrecks and snorkeling through schools of little fish – as Wendy described “like swimming in a aquarium.” There were bright blue ones, flat discus ones, long skinny ones and all shapes, colours and sizes. Fortunately – no wobegongs! Sand Dancer had caught up and we met up with another couple John and Nancy on a cat and had early sundowners on board Sand Dancer ‘till a rain shower sent us scurrying back to our boats to close the ports and hatches. Unpredictable Queensland weather.
Several more days at Tangalooma we spent enjoying swimming, beach walks and a morning of man overboard drill as Wendy and I took turns with the modified mainsheet lifting each other from the water. It was part of our commitment to stay safe and a good opportunity to make a few changes to our lifeline gates, installing a hook on the mainsheet to allow it to become a lifting tackle and generally getting wet and having some fun in the water. Next opportunity at sea, we will do some drill while underway – with Williamson turns and recovery under sail and power. Best idea is just not to fall overboard!
October 29, 2010
The Port of Brisbane, the river and city area were the busiest that we have seen – even more than Sydney Harbour. In the port, mammoth ships entered and departed the narrow entrance channel, several lay at anchor in Moreton bay and in the upper reaches, City cats run from Bretts Wharf upriver well past the city centre. We asked for clearance to enter the port and the busy port controller gave us the departing and arriving shipping – including a tanker about half a mile behind us at twice our speed entering the port. Fortunately we passed her berth before we were overtaken. We had arranged a berth at Dockside marina and the operator had allocated us a berth number – not being officially open on a weekend. Our lines were taken by locals on arrival and we soon got chatting to the liveaboard community there – most of whom worked full time in the city. The current prohibited us entering our berth until slack water when we secured alongside. Within minutes the first commuter Citycat generated a wash that put half-meter standing waves in the concrete marina pontoons and I became aware of the damage that these vessels wracked on waterfront structures. Maintenance on the marina seemed to be continuous – a local stated that the Brisbane Council have a repair bill of over $800,000 on the floating walkway opposite. But the marina was very convenient and adjacent a city ferry terminal so Wendy and I were soon aboard one of the slower traditional ferries to the city where we visited the Riverside restaurant complex enjoying a great seafood pizza and Hunter valley red. We enjoyed the city and the marina locale visiting the Story Bridge Hotel, Botanical gardens and museum during our stay. Our main purpose there was to leave Charon while we returned to Tasmania – for me to work and Wendy to visit family and friends. After a visit to Whitworths to buy more fenders and setting up double docklines (the marina had a number of flattened fenders and many chafed mooring lines) we departed for Tassie. During our absence, Brisbane received storms and was deluged with more rain than in recent history – I returned to a marina full of floating debris, the dam was overflowing and water being released to prevent more flooding. The Citycats had stopped – so really the marina was quite delightful – apart from the cosmetic issue of filthy water – more left thongs, plastic bottles tennis balls, logs, sticks, mangrove roots and assorted flotsam than I had ever seen – and at one stage a wooden bedside table went floating past. The berth holders fished flotsam from the river and soon we had an obstacle course on the pontoon. Logs were parbuckled from the berths and at every tide change huge quantities of floating muck swapped from north opening fingers to south opening fingers. There was no way than any of this water was entering Charon’s precious heat exchanger! I took the opportunity to redecorate the head removing 40 year-old floor and wall tiles stuck with 40 year old glue and retiling with a Grecian look – courtesy of Bunnings. The tiling shops in Brisbane were appalling – kept no stock and tile shopping by train was tedious. A new seashore-themed shower curtain finished it off and Charon was again presentable for Wendy’s return. There are times on board where a man’s gotta do… We caught up with friends Leanne and Steve and their daughter Sylvie and enjoyed several meals together – having access to their fresh veggies and an eggplant. Leanne was an ambulance student of mine from the 80’s in Tassie and is enjoying a very successful career in the Queensland Ambulance Service. Cruising is a great way to catch up with friends and family – with much more to come for both Wendy and I. We enjoyed the last of Brisbane together – our little restaurant in Riverside, adjacent the ferry terminal had been converted to a swat team special ops centre after a local liveaboard went postal and the full might of the Queensland Police were called into force. Heavily armored coppers bristled from nearby restaurants and the poor yachtie ended up stabbing himself and jumping overboard. For the second time during our visit the Citycats were stopped – not a bad thing! We departed the Brisbane river after bunkering with 400 liters of diesel at Rivergate and headed across Moreton Bay to Tangalooma.
September 11, 2010
Charon’s Trip North
The Clarence – direct to Queensland!
The coastal patrol guy at Ballina Marine Rescue described the bar there as being a “prick of a bar” an opinion confirmed by our observation of a line of white water as we motored past. This was no surprise as swell generates surf as the ocean becomes shallow. We were to witness this as we left the Clarence with seemingly pleasant conditions interspersed by mountainous swell waves about every minute. Once committed it was folly to turn around and Charon just climbed up and over the three or four waves at the departure. Not only was it fairly pleasant we were able to get some photos – mostly of sky and sea and very little of the interface. It was a five-minute rollercoaster.
Wendy and I stood watches as this was likely to be a long day –and it was. Being confirmed coastal day-cruisers, we planned to enter the Gold Coast seaway in daylight after a little sleep at anchor in Byron Bay. This was not to happen as the wind and swell shifted more northerly exposing Byron Bay to a slight swell. We tried lying ahull for ten minutes but neither Wendy or I felt comfortable below deck and as the evening was light cloud and a full moon and gentle breeze, we decided to motor slowly to the Gold Coast after dark.
Wendy’s last watch finished at midnight and I came on deck fairly refreshed. The newly installed AIS reported a navy vessel and couple of other heavies off the coast and Wendy’s watch had been uneventful. The lights (and fleshpots!!!) of Surfers Paradise beckoned and by 0200 am we were abeam of the well lit highrise. I considered heaving to till daylight but the plotter was working well and what moon snuck out from behind clouds have us a distinct shoreline. As I closed the coast the leads opened up and were very clear so I decided to go in. The service provided by NSW Volunteer Marine Rescue radio operators is second to none and experienced and informed operators give measured advice and factual information such as sea state at a barway, underkeel clearances and tidal anomalies. Less experiences operators always ask more experienced where necessary.
We entered the Gold Coast seaway at 0300 and anchored adjacent Seaworld. I had heated up a Fray Bentos tinned Meat Pie from the emergency store and had a rum and coke. Some sleep and awoke late morning to explore.
Wendy and I walked to Seaworld and caught the bus to Surfers. Drinks at an Irish pub, photos with the meter maids and posted some mail. This was a significant destination. We re-anchored at Bums bay where we met the local cruising fraternity, borrowed a car and drove to Byron Bay to make up for our fleeting ten minutes there days before and on our last night had a meal with Darren and Chris who were travelling south to Tassie from Cape York. Darren, along with fellow crew Steve had been our crew across Bass Strait and it was a god night of travelling stories – both by sea and by land. Darren obliged by returning my piano and gear back to Tassie in the back of their camper trailer.
Wendy had never been to seaworld –and it was in 1987 that I last visited – so a day there was mandatory. Seaworld is a great park - we went early and stayed late. Not one buy TWO visits to the dolphin show, the tropical aquarium and polar bears. Pretty much packed in all that two people could see in a day. Great to walk home to our alongside accommodation afterwards for a sundowner.
After our overnight guests departed, Wendy and I headed north spending a night in Dux anchorage and two more in the Logan River before entering Moreton Bay. Our last anchorage was in the Rainbow Channel and on Saturday 2nd October we entered the Brisbane River.
September 10, 2010
The Big River – Australia’s Mississippi.
We were to spend over two weeks exploring the Clarence – but first to go ashore and see the sights of Iluka. Sedgers Reef Hotel! A sprawling Queensland style pub serving Four X beer (do you spell that XXXX?) and large steaks. Not surprisingly Iluka is a “south of the border” destination for Queensland families with much tourist accommodation and several caravan parks. We ventured into the rainforest walk and lookout and traversed the length and breadth of the town – meeting up with the new owners of the local take away – previously from Huonville Tasmania. Wanting to program our AIS (Automatic Identification Unit – a transponder that tells other vessels our details) I visited the local white goods shop, Crystal Solutions, where the owner knew exactly what I wanted when I asked for a USB to RS232 serial port adapter cable to program our AIS. He serviced the IT needs of the local fishing fleet as well as operating a video hire and fridge shop. He offered us the shop for the price of his stock! We politely declined.
We enjoyed a week at Iluka including a great Sunday Jazz Cruise on the local ferry before heading down the Clarence to Maclean. The passage under the Harwood Bridge involved two blokes coming by car from Ballina and lifting the span – a process that was done with great efficiency and ease. The harwood Bridge has just completed a significant makeover and had been closed for some time. We were met at the Maclean jetty by Peter – the local yacht welcomer and asked to sign the visiting yacht’s register. Maclean is a great town for provisioning – we filled up with water, gas, meat, groceries and all sorts of hard to get spares (like O rings for the gas bottle) before motoring to Ulmarra – a delightful village – the best preserved in NSW. As an onshore morning breeze spring up I was reluctant to get Wendy from the op shop – in her opinion the best she had visited so far.
Passing by Lawrence, we spied Peter and Kaye aboard Millifleurs and arranged to catch up in Grafton. We had first seen them on Constitution Dock, Hobart and caught up in Greenwell Point but never had the opportunity for a meal together as our plans were thwarted by a gale while anchored there. We made up for this by a great pasta meal aboard Charon and were to again catch up back in Iluka. Peter is a great raconteur and very experienced seafarer with three circumnavigations to his credit including many miles as master of Sundancer, a 104 foot schooner.
The hairdresser at Yamba had described Grafton as a hole – but we found it a very well preserved country town with an excellent city centre and cultural area. On out first dinghy trip ashore we were welcomed by the past Commodore of the Grafton yacht Club and invited to join them on their balcony for drinks. Our arrival had been heralded by my earlier call enquiring about moorings. We were supplied with fresh garden produce and they later joined us for a cuppa on board Charon. Wendy had returned with the groceries with her new sleek black vehicle – a shopping trolly. Excellent choice.
Grafton’s famous Jakarandas were not yet in bloom but the streets were spacious and locals friendly. Our highlight was a visit to the thousand-seat Saraton Theatre – just reopened from a $6 million makeover with the best Belgian digital sound and projection equipment, new seats and renovation. Now that’s three things the Belgians do well. We saw “Tomorrow when the war began” and the seats literally jumped with each explosion. Wendy had enjoyed reading the books by John Marsden and we both enjoyed the movie.
As we had committed to a return to tassie as I had been offered a few days work, we both felt the pressure was on and for the first time on almost a year we had a deadline. Not pleasant! We arranged a bridge opening for Monday 20th September and spent the day getting back to Iluka including a great lunch at the Brushgrove Pub recommended by the bridge-keepers wife. With good holding ground, the completely enclosed breakwater and being in a river, Iluka must be the ultimate anchorage. Being close to a pub and some shops doesn’t hurt either.
After backing and filling about the weather and numerous calls to VMR Yamba, Byron Bay and Ballina (we had several days of less than clement weather!) we decided to head to Queensland via Ballina Bar and Byron Bay – conditions permitting.