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sailingfastforward
31st Mar 2009 - 22nd May 2009
East Coast Shuffle

In roughly 3½ months will be arriving in Darwin, sounds like a piece of cake - but we have a staggering 1800nm to sail to get there!!! Australia is one seriously big place - so we’d better shake a leg then mate!

After taking on 500L of diesel we left the Scarborough Marina complex around noon and headed across the northern end of Moreton Bay. The forecast stated wind at 15-20 knots from the SE. What we actually had was less than 10 knots from the NE! So on went the engine. As we rounded the top of Fraser Island into Hervey Bay at around 4pm the following day, the wind started to pick up and by 6pm we were screaming along in 20 knots. Naturally it was now blowing from the SE (!!) – and since we were heading south into the bay, we were hard on the wind as it was right on the nose! At around midnight we dropped the hook in Platypus Bay – we’d have good protection from Fraser Island when the forecasted “very strong easterlies” kicked in.

Interestingly, Fraser Island stretches over 123kms in length and 22kms at its widest point. With an area of 184 000 hectares, it is the largest sand island in the world!

We upped anchor at around 8am and headed across Hervey Bay to Bundaberg Port Marina – in a light SW breeze. More motoring. The strong easterlies never materialized, and as for the south westerly - where did it come from? I was really starting to doubt the Bureau of Meteorology’s forecasting abilities!! This 285nm trip was expensive – our perkins guzzled 200 litres of diesel!!

Sitting inland alongside the Burnett River in the heart of a gentle sea of rustling sugarcane, is Bundaberg. It’s a small agricultural town known for its most famous product – Bundaberg Rum, which has been distilled since 1883. Love their ginger beer! As the Burnett River snakes it’s way offshore so we are led to the one of the wonders of the world : the two southernmost islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

Bundaberg Port Marina is located at the mouth of the Burnett River. It was a refreshing change from Scarborough Marina, Dockside Marina and Rivergate Marina in that it was very cruiser orientated. There was a free minibus into town every morning and to the fresh market on a Sunday, a nice book swap, a small convenience store selling essentials, a good chandlery, and a very pleasant restaurant where one could mingle with other cruisers and enjoy drinks that actually were a fair price. The only thing missing was a nice BBQ area!

Being the cheapest boatyard on the east coast (for our sized boat), it was a no-brainer that this was where we’d haul the boat and re-do the antifouling. They ran a very slick operation and we were hauled and power washed in no time on 9 April. The stay on the hard was uneventful, and the painting on of the antifouling went much quicker than in New Zealand as the paint was a lot thicker, so it only required half the effort!!

Whilst here I also managed to get rid of 22 old cruising and travel guides on Ebay, which was a blessing as they weighed a lot! We were also able to catch up with cruising friends we’d not seen since arriving in Australia – and we were slowly meeting more people who were all going to be participating in the rally to Indonesia. After the launch on 14 April we decided that we’d spend 2 more days in the marina, then anchor out – finish up our provisioning and leave by the weekend.


17 - 19 APRIL
Straddling the Tropic of Capricorn, Queensland’s central coast extends 750km north of Bundaberg. We headed out to the famous uninhabited coral cay called Lady Musgrave - located 60nm to the north. Surprise! Little to no wind had us motoring again, and we arrived at 4:30 after a very relaxing day! The day was rounded off nicely with sundowners on “Cyan” with Chuck and Lynn, and Ray and Marilyn from “Horizon”.

It really was a beautiful spot. In no time we'd switched right back into cruising mode and were off in the dinghy for a snorkel. It was good being back in the water again, but we’ve been very spoilt crossing the Pacific – so sadly it did not rate very highly in terms of the “wow factor” under the water!


19 APRIL – 2 MAY
Late on Sunday afternoon, we started our next series of hops north to the much talked about “Whitsunday Islands”. This first leg to Keppel was an overnighter. During the time it took us to reach Hamilton Island on 27 April we’d had very little wind, gorgeous blue sky days and calm seas. And nothing exciting to report on at all!! Not even any sign of a fish on our lures!

* Great Keppel Island 94nm – okay anchorage, but cannot tuck in close due to draft restrictions, can be rolly
* Pearl Bay 50nm – very pretty with all the Pine trees, can be rolly though, try and spot a dugongs

THE WHITSUNDAYS
The Whitsunday group of continental islands formed when changing sea levels drowned a mountain range. Named by Captain Cook in 1770, the Whitsundays is the largest group of offshore islands in Australia. The Ngaro people, one of the earliest recorded Aboriginal groups in Australia, were seen by Cook while exploring the Whitsunday Passage. The “Island People” lived throughout the island chain and the nearby mainland for hundreds of years. The region’s azure seas, cradled by the Great Barrier Reef, are dotted with an array of national park islands, coral cays, fringing coral reefs and stunning beaches. By far the majority of the Whitsunday islands are designated national park, leaving them uninhabited and in their purest natural state for all to enjoy. Of the 74, eight islands are inhabited, with 11 island resorts offering a range of accommodation and attractions.

Our journey through the Whitsundays went as follows:
* Scawfell Island 117nm – actually managed to sail here and anchored safely at midnight! Great protection in SE trades, very pretty, nice beach
* Brampton Island 24nm – gorgeous southern anchorage, 12km walk ashore was good exercise!
* Thomas 17.5nm – another gorgeous southern anchorage
* Lindeman Island 9.6nm – resort not very partial to yachts unless you want to pay $90/day for a buoy!
* Hamilton Island 11nm

27 April - Hamilton Island
Whilst at anchor at Scawfell Island, one of the back stay cylinders suddenly spewed oil all over the back deck!! It was last repaired in Whangarei so hopefully there was nothing major wrong. We called Enzed Marine in Airlie Beach as soon as we’d arrived in Hamilton, and had them on the next ferry to Shute Harbour within 45 minutes... he said we’d have them back the following day. How efficient!

So there we we're bobbing around on the huge buoys at Dent Island (opposite Hamilton Island) - they were originally put down for big power boats, and were supposed to cost $80 a day (were they out of their minds?) - anyway, it turned out they were free as people had been complaining about them damaging their paint jobs and antifouling when the buoys banged up against the boats - which usually happened when boat and buoy did a weird dance during the tide change!

We had some friends in the marina, and met them shore along with a few others for drinks and pizza.

Hamilton Island, located a mere 13km south east of the mainland, is the group’s largest and most aggressively marketed resort. It’s a very touristy little place and everyone gets around on golf carts. It was quite busy whilst we were there, but apparently peak season was still a month or so away. With a thriving charter boat business it’s an ideally located getaway as there are literally hundreds of little bays that one can tuck into. The supermarket had everything we needed in the way of fresh produce, and surprisingly it did not cost an arm and a leg.

Saw the best fridge magnet ever whilst there: Why exercise and punish your body for something your mouth did?

Late on the 28th we received the cylinders and headed out early the following morning for Whitehaven Beach, a mere 9.5nm away. There were a lot of boats anchored off the beach so we decided that it would be better on the opposite side at Chalkies Beach as there was not a soul there. Later, as Ken was tensioning up the cylinders the same one spewed oil again!!! We could not believe it! We’d have to mosey on back to Hamilton in the morning.

The snorkeling at Chalkies was supposed to be “excellent”, there had also been a few tourist boats anchored off the beach that morning with guests frolicking in the water. We weren’t too convinced of the clarity because the water looked rather green and murky where we were anchored.

Jellyfish are also a problem in these waters. There’s the deadly box jellyfish – measuring 20cm along each side of the bell, and having up to as many as 15 tentacles measuring up to 3m in length! They prefer to stay inshore and theoretically should be easier to spot than the tiny and translucent but equally deadly Irukandji jellyfish which is only 2.5cm in diameter and sporting only 4 short-ish tentacles. The jellyfish are found all the way along the Queensland coast, along the Northern Territory and down and west coast to Broome. Anyway, you don’t want to be stung by either of these suckers because chances are you will die if stung badly enough. So with this in mind, there was no real urge to get into the water – even wearing those cute little coral/stinger suits! We dinghied over to have a look with our clear-bottomed bucket – but were not impressed by the coral and didn’t see any fish, so decided to have a walk on the long silica sand beach instead.

Our good friends on Catmini arrived later on that afternoon and yet another boozy night was enjoyed by all!

We returned (with hangovers!) to Hamilton the following morning, and sent the cylinders off to Shute Harbour as soon as possible. After careful inspection Dave discovered that one of the spacers they had made was not quite the correct size, and when put under pressure it pushed the seal out of position, thereby spewing oil.

By noon the following day the cylinders were fitted and we were set to go! As the wind had picked up substantially to 20-25 knots SE and was forecast to remain that way for the next week due to a system in the Tasman Sea, we decided to leave the Whitsundays. So we spent that evening at Nara Inlet, which was beautiful. The following day we enjoyed lunch tied to a buoy at Langford Island; then later headed over to seek shelter at Butterfly Bay as the skies started looking very grim and squally! We both had a terrible night as the wind came in bullets as it funneled down the mountains, and then the started to roll! Oh dear!

We could not believe we still had a staggering 1700nm to go to get to Darwin!


THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

Said to be the world’s largest living structure and the only one visible from outer space, the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Consisting of over 2500 separate, inter-connected reefs stretching over 2300kms in length, the Great Barrier Reef protects a fair chunk of the Queensland coast from huge ocean swells providing the region with some of the safest cruising grounds in the world.


4 – 9 MAY
One consolation about the SE 20-30 knots, was that it was from a great angle! Being inside the Great Barrier Reef ensured that the swell did not build up too much either. Having whipped out my Insight Travel guide over the weekend we discovered that we could confidently day hop up the coast to Cairns with the knowledge that we weren’t missing out on anything exciting along the way. Aside from the fact that the jellies were around, we also had crocs to deal with – so again swimming was not really an option either… and yes, they even managed to get out to the outer islands! Then again, only a croc would want to swim in this greeny brown water!

* Cape Upstart 74nm – very fast trip, clocked speeds of over 10 knots, day still grey, squalls about, great anchorage – but can get false impression of actually wind speed due to high cliffs!

* Magnetic Island 68nm – sea & wind down slightly, huge rogue rollers every now and then to keep you on your toes! Had stuff flying around inside that hasn’t moved in years! Great anchorage, many yachts. Good friends Roger and Lucie on “Catimini” and David and Juliet on “Reflections” came over for sundowners. We’ve all known each other since Venezuela!! It truly is a small world! Went across the island on the bus to get a few fresh goodies. Spent 2 nights here.

* Palm Island 35nm – not a palm tree in sight. Good overnight anchorage.

* Maroulyan Harbour 66nm – a day of rain and wind squalls, at least we are always in sight of land! Very comforting! Very good and secure anchorage. Did not go down river due to draft restrictions. Four yachts hiding here from the storms for the night!

* Cairns 68nm – up early, still rainy and grim, have not seen the sun for over a week! Again a quick trip, ship traffic increasing, but no hassles. Arrived at 3pm.



9 – 22 MAY : CAIRNS
Has a reputation of being the tropical gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. It’s the premier city of Far North Queensland and attracts visitors from all over the world - only to wave them goodbye as they head off on reef excursions; cable cars over tropical rainforests; scenic railway trips to the mountains; food trails to the Tableland; hair-raising experiences on rapids; or on 4WD safaris to Cape York. The choice is endless. Sadly there is not much to do in Cairns itself, but everyone needs to eat and it’s fun to people-watch at one many many restaurants and sidewalk café’s which kept busy by a seemingly endless passing parade of travelers and backpackers. The number of tour operators are simply astounding!

We’d booked a week in Marlin Marina as we’d be doing some provisioning - actually just topping up, but with it being heavy goods, including 2 new seriously heavy starter batteries – being in a marina would made the world of difference.

The plan was to stay in Cairns for roughly a week, have some fun, enjoy a few meals out with friends, have a look around, re-provision and head out to Lizard Island. Cairns really is the last civilized stop before Darwin, which is still around 1250nm away!!! As we were thinking of going to Thursday Island, we’d contacted Quarantine who sent someone around to seal the packaged meat in our freezer, but more on this in the next newsletter.

But things don’t always go according to plan do they? Halfway to Cairns toothache set in, a friend very kindly organized an appointment for first thing Monday morning. By Tuesday the following week I found myself lying in a cushy chair in an Endonontists’ consulting room in Brisbane!!! Turned out well though - he cleared a blockage in a 4 year old root canal, and was also able to work down and clear out the rest of the tooth properly. Dental costs are horrendous in Australia, needless to say I have a very small yacht in my mouth! In fact several friends have!! I will however wait until we get to Thailand to get a new cap as it’s a third of the price!

The weather had been idyllic since my return from Brisbane and I was rather anxious to get to Lizard Island whilst it was still pretty much windless so that we could go out to the famous Cod Hole. After doing some last minute provisioning at the amazing fruit and veg market on Friday, we headed out and set a northerly course into a light but sufficient NW breeze, and we were only an overnight trip away from our next adventure…



Next: Lizard Island
Previous: New Zealand


Diary Photos
9th Apr 2009  Day 8: Deep Water Emergence

9th Apr 2009  Bundaberg: just getting us settled in for the week

14th Apr 2009  Bundaberg: Travel lift taking us back where we belong!

14th Apr 2009  Bundaberg: almost there...

16th Apr 2009  Bundaberg: cute Kangaroos near the boatyard and marina, you see them just before sunset

16th Apr 2009  Bundaberg: little Joey eyeballing us...

21st Apr 2009  Whitsundays...

26th Apr 2009  Whitsundays: Brampton island... on our long walk

27th Apr 2009  Whitsundays: Hamilton Island, these cockatoos are not shy at all!

28th Apr 2009  Whitsundays: touristy Hamilton Island

1st May 2009  Whitsundays: Hamilton Island

1st May 2009  Whitsundays: Hamilton Island, another cheeky fellow waiting for a drop of ice cream!

2nd May 2009  Whitsundays: another glorious day...

9th May 2009  Whitsundays: sailing to Butterfly Bay

9th May 2009  Boobie hitching a ride outside Cairns

15th May 2009  Cairns: free gas powered BBQ area!

15th May 2009  Cairns: a bunch of us enjoying a Friday afternoon BBQ

15th May 2009  Cairns: nice waterfront area

21st May 2009  Cairns: gorgeous swimming area in Cairns

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