Charon's trip north.

S 33° 52' E 151° 11'

Charon’s Trip North: Tangalooma, Scarborough and Mooloolaba

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!

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