November 17, 2011
Lazy days at Lizard were interrupted by the wind swinging to the north. In true community style all but two yachts upped anchor from Mrs Watson’s Bay and almost procession-like made their way to Blue Lagoon on the south of the island. Needless to say, the 5-7pm drinks onshore, accompanied by great snacks, continued unabated. The lagoon is lovely and snorkeling opportunities endless. A visit to the Marine Research Station’s Monday morning tour was fascinating and in the library afterwards past friendships were renewed as Lenore from Balour recognized Janet from time spent together in Iluka in 2008. All too soon it was time to leave Lizard.
Luckily for us the northerly spell lasted long enough to reach a very windy Cape Bedford, where we stayed onboard as we did not have the required permission to go ashore from the Aborigine people owning the land. We intended our next stop to be Cape Tribulation (who could not want to stop at a place with such a wonderful name). However, the headland does not offer much protection and it was difficult to gauge if the wind was going to set north-east or south-east, we pushed on to Snapper Island. On anchoring we managed to pull most of the chain out of the locker in an unplanned high speed reverse maneuver. Naturally the chain dragged through thick sticky mud, which made retrieving it the next day a laborious affair as pretty much each link had to be washed. That evening we picked up a mooring at the lovely Low Islet. While reading on deck I had thought I was imagining things when I heard the quacking of a goose, but no, it was for real. Not only the goose but the dog too joined the family when they went snorkeling, with the goose cadging a ride on a swimmer’s back on the return journey.
World Rugby Cup fever was live and well on Rebel and we purposely headed for Port Douglas to catch the Australia versus New Zealand game. We anchored in the river in the belief that the breeze would keep the sandflies at bay. Who knows how bad they would have been in the marina but they sure got us in the river too. Yet more money was thrown at insect repellant and itch ease. Added to this, the heavens opened, and in two days the area had something like 10 times its normal monthly rainfall. On meeting up with Janet’s brother Nic and wife Bev, out from New Zealand for two weeks, it was pretty unanimous that sailing would not be part of week one and they went off to hike in the rain in the Daintree. We spent over a week in Port Douglas waiting for the weather to subside and eventually managed to motor down to Marlin Marina in Cairns. Once Nic and Bev were installed in the fore cabin (together with the spinnaker), we set off for a night at Michaelmas Cay and two at Fitzroy Island. Having the kayaks and the dinghy made it so easy for everyone to do pretty much what they wanted to and we had a lovely five days with them on board.
Rebel is ‘back home’ in Bluewater Marina just north of Cairns. No sooner had we made her resemble a dwelling in a squatter camp with awnings and tarpaulins to ward off the heat and rain, we were persuaded by Chris and Gilli on Westwind to head out to Michaelmas for the weekend. Despite lousy weather, we had a great time (it is only water after all and warm at that!).
Ian was finally allowed to lodge his citizenship application papers on 2 November and if all goes according to plan, he will be attending Cairns’ next citizenship ceremony on 15 December. The downside does mean spending the cyclone season in Cairns, along with the rain and humidity. The second hand air con unit we found in the Marlin Marina laundry is helping heat but not sure what we will do about the cyclones! Bluewater Marina has a category 3 cyclone rating, which means that for Yasi, which morfed into a category 5 cyclone, you must either remover your boat from the marina or leave her unattended to the forces of nature, as at that cyclone level you are not allowed to stay on board.
To combat the tedium of spending months on board in less than ideal conditions, we are going to housesit for three weeks over Xmas in Malanda, up on the Tablelands behind Cairns. Apparently the climate is at least 5 degrees cooler there and on Sunday, enroute to our steam train outing in Ravenshoe with Chris and Gilli, we called in to introduce ourselves to Lyn and Dave, the seven cats, dog, Rube the heifer and bantams. All in all looks like it should be fun and very kindly they are going to let us use their car. Next update will be from a dirt dwelling…..
October 08, 2011
Apologies for the six weeks since my last update but when you are tied up in a marina there does not appear to be much to report on. Our big setback was three immigration officials told us that Ian would be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship end August. However, when he presented himself there with all his papers, he was told that in fact he will only be eligible on 2 November!!! By that time we had expected the process to be virtually completed and to be heading south to avoid the cyclone season. To complicate matters, because we thought we would have to be in the area for around six weeks, we had ordered new clears for our cockpit area. With the girl mis-measuring for this, the promised three week job ran into six weeks and kept us tied to the dock as the process requires constant ‘fittings’, and however irritating, once you have parted with two-thirds of your money, you do all you can to co-operate!
On Rebel the chores seemed endless. First the fresh water pump packed up, then the deep freeze pump pretended it had (fortunately Ian managed to fix an internal switch), Chris’ car blew a hole in a spark plug cable, the dinghy motor was misfiring and needed new spark plugs, and the frame for the covers had to be constantly assembled and dis-assembled. However, we have had breaks and one of them saw us return by dinghy from lunch at Yorkies Knob to go crocodile spotting amongst the mangroves. Well, we were rewarded within seconds by this brute, sunning himself on the bank, and beat a hasty retreat in the dinghy!
Chris and Gilli’s car has been a life saver – making shopping and chandlery visiting (a cruiser’s favourite kind of shop) so much easier. Our visits inland have included the Barron River hydo-electric scheme at the base of the Barron Gorge and Kuranda at the top of the gorge. Kuranda is a quaint little touristic town capitalising on falls, the skytrain and rainforest. Our next trip took us to Cairns Highlands/Atherton Tablelands, an area which supplies a lot of the produce sold on the markets in Cairns. The scenery varies from dry to rich farm soil with some of the largest banana trees we have ever seen (does a big tree mean a big price???). Enroute we went into Jaques Coffee Plantation where I saw my first coffee tree. The plantation is owned by a family originally from East Africa, and here in Australia have had to endure mindboggling hardships before being able to establish themselves. On the way back we went past Lake Tinaroo (so named by the guy who found tin in the area) and stopped off at two tiny lakes in the Crater Lakes National Park. The name says it all as the lakes are in volcanic craters, which means no shelving beaches and trees right to the water’s edge, which set in a rainforest make for really pretty scenery.
At the end of September the clears were finally finished and we threw off the lines and headed for Lizard Island, some 180nm north. Naturally as we were ready to leave, the wind was not in our favour…. So we motored out the 20nm to Michaelmas Cay and were lucky enough to be able to pick up a mooring, which made the northerly wind tenable. Michaelmas Cay is a tern breeding ground with great snorkeling around the cay. The water and cay become very crowded during the day with day trippers that are disgorged by vessels from Cairns for the customary snorkel and bird watching. We had two good nights there and then onto Low Islets where conditions were ideal – no swell, calm waters, peaceful and quiet. From there we sailed off to East Hope Island in a brisk wind which made the water choppy and, on approach to the island, reef spotting difficult. Although we may have anchored a little close in, luckily we did not have a problem retrieving our anchor. We had our next anchorage at Cape Flattery, a huge bay that is part of the mainland, all to ourselves. From there we covered the 50nm to Lizard at around 7kn/hr with two reefs in the main, plus a reefed genoa. With the wind and swell from the south east, items had to be stowed and cupboard doors secured – something we have not had to do for a while and it was great to feel that we were actually sailing again.
We dropped anchor at a very windy Lizard Island – heavens knows how strong the wind is on the unprotected side of the island. Our first day was spent doing what most liveaboards occupy themselves with – finding out where get water and dispose of rubbish! Luckily there is an old fashioned water pump that pumps out borehole water and was put to immediate use in washing our hair. Apparently the resort also lets you take water from its desalination plant, and, for a gold coin donation, you may throw your rubbish in a tip that a barge collects. Our paddle ashore on the first day was fairly hair raising on the return trip – with the wind and wavelets coming from behind my speed picked up and luckily I caught onto the rope hanging down the side of Rebel – failing which I would still be heading north in the canoe!
One of the things that makes Lizard so great is that the wind does blow a lot of the time and keeps one cool while the bay is still protected enough to go snorkeling, even when the wind is howling. Fortunately the wind died down for a few days, enabling us to motor out to Cod Hole, about 10nm to the east, where both moorings were free. (You are not allowed to anchor there.) The snorkelling was wonderful and the reef here appeared to be much harder than that around Lizard itself. However, the Cod Hole reef experience, with the blessign of a pickup mooring, squashed our ideas of returning south along the Ribbon Reefs, where you just drop anchor on sand inside the reef wherever appropriate. We both find it a little unnerving to be sailing along towards what looks like an endless expanse of water but knowing that just under the surface lurk reef and rocks. In the right light you can see the water discoloration (browny green) from a short distance away tho in some cases that is too late! Heading into early morning or late afternoon light is the worst as you literally cannot see due to the glare. It is always important that you arrive at your anchorage well before the setting sun so you can visually inspect the bottom for coral outcrops. Thank goodness for modern day charts and guide books!
On Monday we expect to be heading south towards Port Douglas where hopefully we will be able to spend a few days with Nic and Bev, who are out on holiday from New Zealand.
August 21, 2011
Horseshoe Bay on the north east of Magnetic Island really appealed to us, and led to daydreams of dirt dwelling and leading an ‘island’ style life, enjoying both the sea and land. Not to be as we have many miles still to sail, so we stored it in our treasure chest of places to re-visit and made for Orpheus Island, to the north of Great Palm Island. With the four blue mooring buoys in the north corner of Orpheus’ Pioneer Bay all taken, we anchored in the south end and it took three attempts to get the anchor to hold. Going ashore was not an option in the prevailing weather and the next day we set sail for the protected waters of the Hinchinbrook Channel. Lucinda, the sugar ‘town’ at the southern end of the channel entry point, has a 3km jetty extending out into the sea and very shallow water on either side. With the tide in our favour we picked our way through the shoals and motored up to Haycock Island, where we danced around our anchor for an hour or two before it all settled down. Rainy and overcast weather spoilt some of the magnificent scenic shots we were going to take (!?!) of the glorious tree clad mountains to both the east and west of the channel. The Hinchinbrook is largely national park, and mangroves make it impossible in all but a few places to go ashore. Added to that is the threat of sandflies and mozzies, so it keeps a lot of its glory to itself! However, it has a dark brooding beauty and is very peaceful. For us, Rebel’s deepish draught made the thought of exploring the many tributaries nerve racking rather than pleasant, so we headed for Dunk Island, where we spent a very rolly night in gusty wind.
Dunk took a direct hit from cyclone Yasi and signboards on the beach say ‘Danger, do not go past this point’ and one can see buildings with missing roof tops. Sadly the internet site says the owners will not be able to effect the repairs needed on both Dunk and Bedarra Islands, leaving their futures uncertain. It will a be real shame see all the hard work and good reputation not continue. On leaving Dunk Rebel’s anchor ‘up’ switch would not work. By the time Ian fixed it, it was too late to head for Mourilyan, so we spent a second night off Dunk in much calmer conditions. After motor sailing in squally weather it was a pleasure to enter the calm shelter that Mourilyan provided, a natural, albeit very small, harbor. From Mourilyan we sailed to Fitzroy for a night. The anchorage either side of the jetty in front of the resort buildings. Ashore there are walks, free showers (hot water…) and lockup lockers for day trippers. The only downside (experienced by our friends on Plan Four as well) was the two small scruffy fishing boats that were anchored a little close for comfort and that ran their generators the ENTIRE night. After a morning paddle over pristine reef we headed for Cairns to catch the fourth hour of the rising tide to ensure we did not run aground in the creek leading up to Bluewater Marina. Our friends Chris and Gilli from Westwind met us at the entrance in an inflatable to show us the way in, and after tying up in our berth diagonally opposite, we caught up on the past two years since we last saw each other.
Before heading off to the Louisiades for two months, Chris and Gilli took us to Port Douglas for the day, It hosts a great Sunday market and apparently chain stores are not encouraged, so there is a great variety of shops that makes browsing pleasurable. I guess the store owners are not that fond of the yatchies who rarely buy anything because they do not have the space for it and realize very quickly they do not need it!!
We have booked into the marina for a month so that Ian can process his application for Australian citizenship. Chris and Gilli very kindly left us their car while they are in the Louisiades, so we will use our time here and the wonderful weather is wonderful to visit some of hinterland and explore to the north and south by car.
August 01, 2011
From Montes Resort we headed into Bowen for three nights to catch up on washing and water and watch SA get thrashed by NZ in the pub. Bowen was used for many of the scenes in the movie ‘Australia’, and is characterized by wide virtually treeless streets and a long wharf. From Bowen we sailed to Cape Upstart, where we spent the first night anchored right at the bottom of the bay with no option to go ashore. The next day we moved up to the entrance of the bay, where we could paddle ashore to a township of fishing cottages. Pretty much each homestead had a tractor and sturdy trailer in the yard, plus more often than not a concrete mixer – presumably for self building as we could not see a road in.Then onto Cape Bowling Green, where we first anchored at the head of the bay in the lee of the lighthouse in 2.5-3m of water. However, with sandbanks all around and the wind forecast to pickup overnight, we felt very uncomfortable so motored another 5nm to the bottom of the bay. There we dropped anchor in 2.8m and once again were far offshore due to shoaling and mangroves. The next morning almost all 40m of chain needed serious rinsing to dislodge the thick gluey mud that was desperately clinging to it.
Our next stop was the Townsville Motor Boat and Yacht Club, which you arrive at by motoring through the harbor into the centre of town. The location was fantastic for walking around town and we spent a good few hours in the museum. However, the downside was a rather dirty dusty boat from the copper, nickel and zinc that is refined in the area and presumably transported out by ship. Townsville, with its large army and airforce base, plus marine research institutes, appears young and trendy, with nighttime club life taking place on the street adjacent to the Yacht Club…
Before leaving Townsville midday on Saturday, we climbed all 1351 (??) steps up to the summit of Castle Hill with the puffing and panting rewarded by view. Back on board the outgoing tide led to a fairly strong tidal stream, which made reversing out of the berth somewhat interesting…. A short sail later and we dropped anchor in Magnetic Island’s Horseshoe Bay, along with a few dozen other boats. Sunday we ventured ashore and took the bus around the island. Ian was wearing his KZN Point Yacht Club shirt and lo, an old Point Yacht Club member spotted this. Erwin and his wife Joan sailed from SA some 30 years ago and now live in Mt Tambourine, 100km south east of Brisbane, as do Eve and Graham (ex-Zimbabweans).We all lunched together on fish ‘n chips – never healthy as the Aussies batter and fry almost everything from the ocean. Back at Horseshoe Bay the tide was well out but we managed to pass the time having a beer in the pub and listening to two excellent young guitarists. Monday morning we donned our walking shoes to walk the 9km round trip from Horseshoe Bay up to the WW11 fort and then back via the pretty bays on the east coast of the island. Huge granite boulders and Hoop pines made for spectacular scenery.
July 19, 2011
From Great Keppel we left in fickle winds for Pearl Bay, which was so pretty with its lovely beaches and wooded hills that we spent the next day there. Then onto Hexham Island for a very uncomfortable night due to wind and tide, which was more than compensated for by the near perfect conditions at Digby Island. Full moon added to the peacefulness, and we spent Ian’s birthday on the island, exploring with Paula and Jim from Avoir. Jim hacked through the undergrowth and we all traipsed to the top of the hill where the views were well worth the effort. To celebrate Ian’s birthday Paula and Jim joined us for lamb shanks and Paula spoilt Ian by baking him a chocolate cake. The next day we rolled and cursed our way to Keswick Island, where Avoir was very proud to have gotten their anchor down first (by a long way I hate to say).
Our next major stop was Airlie Beach where Janet had to head for Sydney for three weeks and Ian stayed on board, working his way through the endless list of chores that always seem to be part of sailing life. By far the most rewarding was replumbing the now non-compliant Lectrasan toilet system. Thanks to his innovation, the setup is now much simpler, uses far less power and will not have the huge annual maintenance bill associated with replacing Lectrasan plates. (The price of the spares in Australia is nearly double that of the USA.)
On Janet’s return from Sydney we had a few very social few days swopping stories and sharing meals with the folk on the boats we had met before. In addition, we got to spend time with Ian’s cousin Brenda and her husband Mark from Perth, who are on a ‘round Australia’ trip by road. Ian managed to take them to Whitehaven Beach for a night and they kindly lent us their car to do a major re-provisioning. We then took shelter from a gale in Funnel Bay for two nights, then returned to Airlie to restock our water and diesel tanks before heading north to Bowen, around 35nm away. As we are visiting a few of the lovely bays along the way, this trip will take a while! Night one we spent anchored alone in the western bay of Double Bay, and night two alone in Jonah’s Bay. There the beach was pretty deserted barring a few fishermen that seem to live off and on in the tents lurking in the trees – much to the horror of the authorities. Apparently a sailor visiting the area many years ago thought it was so wonderful that he sold his boat and now spends a lot of time in his ‘fishing camp’. The bay seems to have its own micro system and does not get all the rain that falls in the surrounding areas, as seen by the rather dry looking trees on the hillside.
We are now anchored around the corner from Montes Resort, which is just north of the passage through Gloucester Channel. We rowed to the resort for a wonderful lunch and are now in chill mode…
June 11, 2011
The floods in Bundaberg in January have led to a bit of silt building up at the Port of Bundaberg Marina and guess what – the only way to get Rebel into her berth was for helpful onlookers to drag her in by her bow rail! Very undignified and also meant that the tide dictated when we could leave. We caught up with the washing and shopping, including the marina bus taking 11 of us at a time to the Farmers Market on Sunday morning, where we stocked up with real farm fresh produce.
With the outlook for decent wind remote, we decided that rather than hang around the marina, we would motor the 50kn to Lady Musgrave Island. The day passed quickly as first we had to clean the Spanish mackerel given to us from a passing fisherman who had one over his limit. Then Ian caught a 3.5kg big eye tuna….On arriving at Lady Musgrave at 16hr, there was barely a ripple on the water and the colors were exquisite, and continued so the next morning when we took the dinghy and drifted over the shallow reefs. It is so hard to limit the amount of photos you take when it is so beautiful, but in hindsight a handful are enough, with the memories are embedded in the mind forever. The day closed with drinks on board Damischa Ridda with Chris and Maureen, whom we met in Scarborough Marina.
Contrary to the forecast, the wind picked up overnight, so we said goodbye to Lady Musgrave and headed to North West Island, where after a fairly vigorous day’s sailing, we anchored once again in turquoise water just behind the reef with some small fishing boats. Friday we sailed to Great Keppel Island and found Damischa Ridda already at anchor, having sailed through the night. Then the awful weekend weather that RockyNet had forecast came through, and the wind is still howling and throwing freezing rain at us. I baked to help warm the boat and replenish our bread and munchies (chocolate cake and date caramel squares) – I was thinking of eating the Milo to get my sweet fix! It will still be a while before we get to Airlie Beach, which is likely to be our next provisioning stop…. and possibly where we will have to have new clears made up as ours are very tired and letting in water.
June 05, 2011
Since returning from South Africa at the beginning of March it seems if it we have done nothing but boat work, boat work, boat work….. The expected four day hardstand turned into nearly four weeks….. However, on the positive side, we have achieved a lot and learnt a lot about Rebel. The first nasty discovery was that to repair the movement in the rudder, layers of fibre glass had to be stripped from the rudder to expose the gudgeons. Luckily with expert help from shipwright Stan, the rudder-side gudgeon was cut in half, so for next time (heaven forbid), it will not be necessary to demolish the rudder. With everything suggesting that our stay on the hard was going to be way longer than planned, we decided to maximize the cost and time by taking the old anti-foulings back to gelcoat – as we had been advised to do a year ago. After looking like a blacksmith for a few days, and with aching arm muscles, we decided to give the job to the yard, which slapped on three layers of epoxy and anti-fouling far more professionally than we could have. Naturally all work finished on the Thursday leading up to the Easter break, which meant paying a premium to get Rebel back into the water on Easter Saturday. However, this was more than compensated for by being back on the water, not having to climb the ladder to get ‘home’, nor constantly be hosing down the decks, shoes, etc to keep the dust and grime at bay.
Back in the water the work was by no means over……. To ensure all Ian’s hard varnish work of September- November did not go to rack and ruin, he applied a few more coats. Then the bolts on the back stay had to be replaced as they were showing signs of rust. To do this, we had to take off the paneling at the foot of our bed, grind out fiberglass, and in general make a helluva awful mess of our cabin, with the discomfort compounded by the smell of epoxy. Fortunately these memories fade….. as have memories of the numerous other little jobs that were ticked off the list.
Finally around the 20 May we were ready to leave Scarborough Marina, which had been home to Rebel for 11 months. The marina’s 30 or so ‘live aboards’ make for a lovely community, and it was even more special for us as Janet and part-owner, Jaun Paul Mira, used to sail Lasers together some 25-30 years ago at Sourthern Cross Sailing Club in Wemmerpan, Johannesburg. A small world indeed. The marina yard is manned by three guys all called Steve, and on demand ex- Zimbabwean Steve would lend us his bakkie/UTE to go shopping when the load was too heavy to lug on our bikes. Jaun Paul’s wife Mira also took time out to show us around the area. Finally on the 24th May, after giving our trusty bikes to the marina staff, we threw off the lines and pulled up the sails.
Day one took us to Mooloolaba, where we spent three nights anchored in the river in the midst of million dollar homes. Here the maritime ‘policeman’ told us the easy route to the shops – up river to the public pontoon just before the main road, tie up the dinghy and enjoy the short walk to the shops. The Mooloolaba – Wide Bay Bar leg was a most uncomfortable motorsail in light following winds. We arrived at the infamous Wide Bay Bar close to sunset and despite the glare from the setting sun, crossed the ‘mad mile’ in fairly calm conditions and anchored in Pelican Bay for the night. The next day we had to postpone our intended passage to Garrys as we did not want to head into the looming storm which would have made seeing the beacons virtually impossible – rater hair raising in the shallow water, especially when chart plotters often are not accurate in non-commercial areas, and can indicate you are on land even tho you know you have water underneath you ……
Garrys Anchorage got pretty festive and Janet got pretty restive after being attacked by sandflies and other biters when we went ashore for a walk. An early morning departure on Wednesday saw Rebel glide through Sheridan Flats and over the sand banks without touching once, tho on our approach to Kingfisher Resort the sudden shoaling nearly got us… With the forecast showing that the wind would be light for the next few days, we booked ourselves onto the Fraser Island one day ‘Beauty Spots’ tour. It was a great day and good to see that the island had more to it than sandflies and mangroves! An aquifier supplies the 100 or so fresh water lakes on the island with crystal clear water and estimates show that it would take some 30 years before Fraser ran out of water if it did not rain. Boggles the mind. We ended the day by taking full advantage of the shower at the pizza/café right next to the jetty.
The Kingfisher/Bundaberg leg was a motorsail in very light winds with a flat sea making it comfortable. We checked into the marina so as to be able to do laundry, get supplies, etc. Quite a few other boats are in the same position – short of wind for the passage north to warmer climes.
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March 31, 2011
Rebel not ready to roam
At the beginning of March we finally returned to Rebel after our holiday in South Africa, which saw Janet away for eight months and Ian four. In Janet’s absence Ian varnished both the interior and exterior, leaving Rebel looking as pretty as a picture in her berth in Scarborough Marina.
The bad news is that Rebel came out of the water on Monday for her annual anti-fouling plus minor repairs. As usual on a boat, nothing turns out as planned and nothing is minor! Fixing the wobble at the top of the rudder stock is turning out to be a major exercise. With no visible way of removing the rudder, Ian had to hack away at the fibre glass on either side. It remains a mystery how the rudder was fitted either originally or on a previous repair. The next challenge is to remove the rudder stock from the tube in the rudder. Stan, who is going to be doing the rewelding of the gudgeon, plans to hammer it out….
So it looks as if we are going to be having fun on the hard instead of cruising around Moreton Bay snorkeling and fishing. The hired car has gone and our transport now is our own two feet plus two bikes bought at the Sunday flea market. With the surrounding area pretty flat, once we are fitter (?) cycling will not be a challenge! Getting anything done is a slow process which has gotten me to wondering if I should scrape off all the old layers of anti-fouling down to the gel coat. It will be a huge job but does need to be done in the near future and if we are on the hard anyway…… I have already scraped off last year’s anti-fouling and have aching shoulders and arms and at night am covering my hands with Vaseline and then putting on thin cotton gloves to try and repair the beating they are taking.