Category Archives: Redgrove

April Update in the Southern Barrier Reef

Just a quick blog to post some photos of how we finished April.

Day tripper boat moored next to pontoon

Day tripper boat moored next to pontoon

Finally got away from Fraser island 19th April and headed for Lady Musgrave island, our first island in the Barrier reef.  It’s an atoll with a little island in the middle surrounded by beautiful turquoise water and coral heads.  Unfortunately it’s been commercialised with a permanently moored pontoon in the middle of the lagoon next to a large coral reef. Every morning at about 10.00 a catamaran carrying 100 +/- people arrived to moor up to the pontoon giving it the appearance of something out of the film Waterworld.  The surrounding water filled with swimmers very quickly, some of them standing on the coral; an absolute no-no.

Too many footprints

Too many footprints

Beautiful sunset over 'Waterworld'

Beautiful sunset over ‘Waterworld’

We landed on the island and walked across the beach but it had far too many foot prints for our liking.  Fortunately the day trippers left at 3pm leaving the lagoon in peace and enabling us to go snorkelling.  There were some nice fish and a fair bit of coral but nothing to compare with Fiji yet.

Anchored among the sandbars

Anchored among the sandbars

 

 

 

Monday 22nd found us in Pancake Creek, a lovely little spot tucked up inside the creek.  At low tide we were surrounded by sandbars, which was good because we sat out a blow there.

Amazing views

Amazing views

 

 

On the 23rd we landed on the beach with Jack and Zdenka off of  ‘Kite’ for a walk to the lighthouse.  We had a wonderful walk to the top and down the other side to the beach for our picnic.  The views from the top were outstanding.

Looking south

Looking south

We are anchored in the creek in the background

We are anchored in the creek in the background

Misplaced buoy on the beach on the other side

Misplaced buoy on the beach on the other side

Walking back up the hill

Walking back up the hill

The lighthouse

The lighthouse

 

 

 

The lighthouse had been lovingly restored and we enjoyed chatting to the old caretaker who still lives next to the lighthouse, although it’s now fully manned.  It seems there used to be quite a community up there in the 1800s.

The little cemetery still contained some old graves which are now protected by pretty picket fencing.

One of the beautifully kept graves

One of the beautifully kept graves

Bill and Sue on the beach

Bill and Sue on the beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back on the beach – but it’s windy again!

The sandflies aren't going to get me

The sandflies aren’t going to get me

 

 

 

 

 

 

We left Pancake Creek late on the 24th for a night sail to Great Keppel Island.  During the night we passed Cape Capricorn, which is situated just above the latitude of the Tropic of Capricorn.  Which means we are back in the tropics where we’ll stay, apart from our trip back to the UK by plane at the end of the year, for the next 2½ years.  The next day we landed on the beach for another walk.  Great Keppel is known for it’s sandflies, not wanting to be bitten again I arrived prepared.

Each spear head had as many as a dozen butterflies on each one

Each spear head had as many as a dozen butterflies on each one

 

 

 

We had a lovely walk.  The island has lots of butterflies attracted by the long spear-like plants.  It was magical walking among them, I haven’t seen so many butterflies in one place before.

Eating our picnic looking out to sea

Eating our picnic looking out to sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We continued up through the bush onto the ridge of the island and continued right along to the lighthouse, where we sat and ate our picnic on the edge of the helipad.

Look for the little newborn goat in the foreground

Look for the little newborn goat in the foreground

 

 

 

 

On the other side of the helipad were some goats and if you look closely at this photo you can see a little white one in the foreground which had been born that morning.  It was wobbly but seemed well.

This stone said 'Rest your legs, dream a while'

This stone said ‘Rest your legs, dream a while’

Wonderful views

Wonderful views

 

 

On the way back to the boat we found this little resting place overlooking one of the bays.  The chairs had been painted to blend in with the surroundings and cemented in place so that some joker couldn’t through them over the cliff. It was a beautiful spot.

Inspiration Lady

Inspiration Lady

 

 

Sunday 28th saw us sailing to Island Head creek alongside our Canadian friends Jackie and Gary on Inspiration Lady.  Jackie and Gary had stayed with us on Camomile in Sydney for Christmas while Inspiration Lady had stayed in Brisbane.  They were now joining the great exodus heading north for the Indonesian rally in July.  It was nice to have some company.

Bill on the helm

Bill on the helm

 

After an overnight in Island Head creek we sailed to the Percy islands the next day.  Jackie and Gary went to Blunt bay and we anchored off of South Percy.  It was very remote, even though it’s only about 40 miles from the mainland, and very very dark in the evening.

Camomile waiting in the bay

Camomile waiting in the bay

 

 

The next day we went for yet another walk (the islands are quite small and each one has different features).  South Percy was totally uninhabited so there weren’t any tracks to follow.  The grass was only ankle deep but spiders and snakes kept running through my thoughts.  We reached the top of the hill to be rewarded with a wonderful view across the bay and Camomile sitting in the middle waiting for us.

View down the other side

View down the other side

 

 

 

Looking down the other side there were some delightful little bays but they were exposed to the strong winds.

 

 

 

Red soil of the landslip

Red soil of the landslip

The soil had some great shapes in it

The soil had some great shapes in it

 

 

 

Through the middle of the island there had been some sort of land slide exposing the rich red soil underneath.

Sand art created by the crabs

Sand art created by the crabs

 

 

 

We walked back down the hill onto the beach, completely untouched except for the ‘crab art’.  The little crabs collect balls of sand as they burrow into it and push it out onto the beach creating amazing pictures which get washed away at high tide.  The hole beach was covered in their artistic patterns.

Watching the crabs

Watching the crabs

Camomile in the bay

Camomile in the bay

 

 

We walked right along the beach enjoying the solitude before getting back on board for a night sail to Mackay for my birthday.

Easter among the Tangalooma Wrecks

A bit late but this is the story of our Easter Adventures.

Equinox anchored off of Moreton Island

Equinox anchored off of Moreton Island

Good Friday we motored out of the Brisbane river and sailed across Moreton bay, which is about the size of Poole harbour, to Sandy Hills on Moreton Island.  Already anchored there were Chris and Cate with their teenage daughters Grace and Sarah in their yacht Equinox.  Chris has been our guru on every thing to do with the Australian coast so it was great to be able to follow them around for the weekend and have him show us some nice spots in the bay.  We invited them over to Camomile for sundowners.

Steeper than it looks

Steeper than it looks

On the Saturday we dinghyed over to the beach and took a walk over the sand dunes.  Moreton Island is largely undeveloped and most of the island is national park with walking trails.  It’s hard work walking over the dunes.  Drinks on Equinox in the evening.

Easter Sunday, after Lindt bunnies for breakfast, we spent all day sailing south further into Moreton bay where Chris led us into a nice little anchorage off of North Stradbroke Island.  In true bank holiday style it started raining, which turned into an evening of thunder and lightening.

Funny garden supply shop

Funny garden supply shop

The next morning the rain had stopped and we took the dinghy into the little village of Dunwich on the island.  Between the waterfront and the shops was a cemetery of great historical interest, for Dunwich was one of the first settlements in Queensland (then still New South Wales), receiving pine logs that had been floated down the Brisbane river for shipment to Sydney.

How about these gnomes in your garden?

How about these gnomes in your garden?

 

 

 

We wandered around the shops and stopped for coffee before heading back to the boat.  On the way back we came across this ‘Garden Ornament’ shop displaying this amazing assortment of gnomes, statues and figures for the garden!

Tangalooma Wrecks

Tangalooma Wrecks

 

 

We spent the afternoon sailing north back up to Moreton Island but this time we anchored further up by the Tangalooma wrecks.

Camomile anchored next to the wrecks

Camomile anchored next to the wrecks

Sunset over the wrecks

Sunset over the wrecks

The anchorage was formed by the scuttling of workboats on a sand bank.  There are 15 vessels ranging from dredgers to barges.  Having been there 50 years they are now just rusty hulks but some coral has formed on them and there was abundant fish life. We spent a couple of day’s there swimming and snorkelling.

Kookaburras sitting on a tree next to the resort (nothing in the resort worth photographing)

Kookaburras sitting on a tree next to the resort (nothing in the resort worth photographing)

 

A resort has grown up near them, we walked around it but it was the closest thing we have seen to Pontins since leaving the UK. While we were sitting drinking our over priced coffees most people disappeared into the dining room for their full board lunch, which they queued for like school dinners!

Equinox anchored by the wrecks

Equinox anchored by the wrecks

Chris, Sarah, Grace and Cate wave Goodbye

Chris, Sarah, Grace and Cate wave Goodbye

Tuesday evening we had a combined BBQ on Equinox and said goodbye for the last time.  Cate, Chris, Grace and Sarah headed back to the main land the next day.  With another goodbye and not knowing whether we’ll ever see them again we said our farewells but we’ve learnt to say ‘never say never’ when you’re sailing.  It was great to know you guys.

Hanging around in Brissie

The moorings in front of the Botanical gardens

The moorings in front of the Botanical gardens

We got back to Camomile on the 21st March after our little mini break.  Several people had advised us it wasn’t a good idea to go north until the end of March because of the threat of cyclones.  Having been lashed by the tail of one we had no intention of encountering another so we decided to hang around Brissie for a while.  We like Brisbane; Sydney was charming but very expensive and vast whereas Brisbane is an affable place.  As the capital of the state of Queensland it has such a get-up-and-go feel about it.  Enveloped by the Brisbane river the tall skyscrapers of the CBD sit neatly around some beautiful colonial buildings. Camomile was tied to the pile moorings by the Botanical gardens, which were very convenient and, apart from the wash of the occasional ferry, were very protected. The shopping precincts of the town were only a 10-minute walk away.

The CBD at twilight

The CBD at twilight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Story bridge lit up

The Story bridge lit up

 

Bill, Sue, Judith and David

Bill, Sue, Judith and David

While in Brisbane we had special guests to supper.  Judith Symonds commodore of the Westerly Owners Association and her husband David were visiting family in Brisbane and we had invited them to join us on Camomile.  It was great to catch up.  They in turn invited us to dinner at their daughter’s house.  We took the ferry there giving us a chance to see the CBD lit up in all its finery.

The sewing machine came out again.  When we tied our lovely new dinghy to the dinghy dock on the river it looked very new and shiny and almost had a sign on it saying ‘steal me’.  We still had the tonneau cover from the old dinghy, it was very tatty but I set about making a cover out of it to make Rocco look ‘grotty’. We used an old fender sock to cover the outboard, especially the 15hp label, which apparently makes it very desirable.

The old outboard finally goes

The old outboard finally goes

We enjoyed time with our friends Gary and Jackie off of the Canadian boat Inspiration Lady who had spent Christmas with us on Camomile in Sydney.  Gary is a bigger collector of ‘rubbish’ commonly referred to as ‘spares’ than Bill is.  He spotted our old broken outboard still sitting on the outboard bracket on the stern.  Bill hadn’t decided what to do with it.  As it’s the same model as his he asked if he could have it for spares.  It was useless to us and completely un-repairable so we gave it to him.  Jackie will never forgive me!

 

 

 

Bye bye to the old outboard

Bye bye to the old outboard

Bill, Sue, Cate and Chris

Bill, Sue, Cate and Chris

Our lovely Aussie friends Chris and Cate who live in Brisbane came to fetch us one morning and took us back to their house for a delicious lunch.  Cate let me use her washing machine and we took the jerries along to fill with diesel on the way back home too. They had kindly taken in a parcel for us that my sister Amanda had sent with our new dinghy wheels and outboard bracket in.  Once back at the boat Bill fitted the wheels to Rocco so the dinghy is as good as it was before but even faster being lighter and having a more powerful outboard.

Friday 29th March after provisioning the boat, washed everything on the boat that could be washed, and topped up with water, we released our mooring lines and motored back down the Brisbane river to start the next part of our adventure beginning with the Easter weekend in Moreton bay.

Family Reunions in Queensland

We made our way up the Brisbane river late on Wednesday 13th March ready for the arrival of the family the next day.  The following evening we excitedly waited outside Kate’s hotel for her arrival.  Bill’s sister was flying into Australia from NZ with her husband Barry and the teenagers, Will and Daisy.  We hadn’t seen them for over a year and were really excited. It was late by the time they arrived dragging huge bags with them for their 10 day stay.  We just had a drink with them then left them to settle in.

Will, Barry, Kate and Daisy in the gardens of the Southbank

Will, Barry, Kate and Daisy in the gardens of the Southbank

The next morning I went for my little run-walk ending up at the hotel where we all enjoyed the hotel swimming pool, which fortunately we had to ourselves.  We all walked into the city for lunch and around the gardens on the Southbank.  They enjoyed their second night in the hotel in Brisbane then checked out and joined us on Camomile for a cup of tea before exploring more of Brisbane.  After spending their second day in the city they were picked up by cousin John and taken out to Boonah, a couple of hours outside Brisbane, for three days.

Catching the train

Catching the train

 

On the Sunday we got up early and caught the train to Ipswich where John picked us up to spend the day altogether.  John would have been Bill’s father’s cousin so he’s Bill’s cousin once removed … we think!!

 

 

 

John and Helen's home

John and Helen’s home

 

 

They have a lovely home high up in hills behind the city surrounded by about 20 acres of land, complete with their own lake.

 

 

 

Daisy and Kate in the canoes

Daisy and Kate in the canoes

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Helen’s lovely garden

Kate and Daisy decided to have a paddle around in the canoes.  Helen has a beautiful garden which she spends long hours in.

 

 

 

 

All ready for our guided tour

All ready for our guided tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful countryside

Beautiful countryside

Koala sitting high up in the trees trying his best to ignore us

Koala sitting high up in the trees trying his best to ignore us

 

After lunch John took us for a walk around his land where we were fortunate enough to see a koala sitting high up in the trees trying hard to ignore us.  Our first wild koala in his own natural surroundings, we were really lucky.

 

 

 

Kangaroos

Kangaroos

 

 

On the way back to the station John drove through an area where he knew there would be lots of kangaroos, so I enjoyed watching them too.

 

 

 

Bill and Barry with champagne to celebrate

Bill and Barry with champagne to celebrate

On the Tuesday the tribe decamped to their apartment on the Gold Coast where they were to spend the second half of their holiday.  We packed a bag and joined them for two days.  Also to arrive was Susan, John’s sister, who had brought along a selection of photos of the family, young and old, from her collection.  We were able to show some of our collection too and we spent an evening puzzling out family connections.

The family gathering

The family gathering

 

So for the benefit of the family at home we have from left to right cousin John (also Nan’s nephew), Bill, John’s wife Helen, Kate, Barry, John’s sister Susan and Sue.  Barry cooked us a wonderful meal.

 

 

Wednesday 20th Bill and I were dragged kicking and screaming to Wet’n’Wild!!  Only joking we all choose the water park out of the 5 available.  Cousin Susan decided to join us, brave lady.  Fortunately it wasn’t very busy because the school holidays haven’t started yet but that also meant that some of the rides were closed.  I enjoyed the ones that you sit on something to slide to the bottom but tried one of the flume rides that you slide down on your own back and managed to wrench my shoulder so decided against any more of those.  Bill very bravely joined the kids on some of the ‘sudden drop’ rides – very brave.

John and Helen

John and Helen

We all left on Thursday to allow Kate and Barry to enjoy the rest of their holiday with Will and Daisy.  John had come down from Boonah on his BMW bike while Helen had driven down with the others in the car.  So she was able to give us a lift back to the station to catch our train back to the city and Camomile.  Thank you John and Helen and Susan for having us, we had a wonderful time meeting you.

Will and Daisy are both taller than me now

Will and Daisy are both taller than me now

 

 

We took these pictures before we left, not sure when we’ll see them all next.   Bye guys, good to see you. x

 

 

 

The Redgrove's and the Tomkinson's

The Redgrove’s and the Tomkinson’s

Camomile’s new friend, Rocco

Camomile ready to go

Camomile ready to go

We were weather watching once again and, this time, I wanted something like perfect sailing conditions to restore our confidence on this first passage since our force 10 trashing. I was confident in Camomile as she is a tough old bird and all her hardware, with the exception of the dinghy and outboard had been brought back up to scratch. It was the human-ware which needed to get back in the saddle to repair the psychological dents and scratches.

 

Looking over the harbour wall to see what the conditions were like - no, not going yet!

Looking over the harbour wall to see what the conditions were like – no, not going yet!

Monday the 4th March brought the kind of windy conditions we would have normally contemplated at a push but it was not right for this occasion. Tuesday was less windy but the swell was still large and so it was Wednesday before we finally bade the nice folks at Coffs g’day, thanked them for all their support, especially Graham for the loan of his car,  and headed north on the 166 mile passage to Southport. Sue was so so brave and pretended not to be apprehensive but after a few hours of rolling around and being pressed back by the adverse current her butterflies got the better of her when both breakfast and lunch made reappearance on the lee deck. (sick with fear more like. S)

The high rises of Surfers Paradise

The high rises of Surfers Paradise

 

Motoring at first with the single reefed main up for stability the southerly wind eventually struck up and after one false start we were able to twizzle the two genoas, finally starting to make some headway against the current which must have been running at more than two knots plus.  We passed Byron Bay, the most easterly cape in Australia, and pressed on back into Queensland.

I was apprehensive on the approach to the Goldcoast Seaway as it is not far from a place called Surfers Paradise and, like most entrances hereabouts, is shallow. This might make it a paradise for surfers but it can also make it Yottie Hell in onshore conditions.

All was well though and we dropped our hook in the quiet, shallow Broadwater protected from the sea by its massive sand bank.

Camomile dinghy-less

Camomile dinghy-less

The following morning it was back to business and we headed up the Coomera River to the City Marina where several of the local dinghy suppliers were based. I was particularly interested in a Sirocco ex display model which was heavily discounted as it had some marks on it. Perfect! Arriving at the showroom though I was devastated to be told it had just been sold. We spent the rest of the morning looking around other suppliers but it was really starting to seem that the new tender was going to cost well above the insurance cover.

 

 

 

 

Beautiful riverside house

Beautiful riverside house

Returning down the river to the anchorage at Broadwater we admired the multimillion houses lining one side of the river which came in all possible styles and sizes with swimming pools, moorings at the bottom of the garden and, a little strangely we thought, meshing around the balconies which we assumed was to keep the sun from the fair skin of the Aussie elite who occupied these palaces.

Some of them were unreal

Some of them were unreal

 

Most with pontoons at the bottom of the garden

Most with pontoons at the bottom of the garden

Sitting back at the anchorage on Saturday afternoon and back on the internet I was surprised to see the dinghy I liked had been re-listed and thinking this was a mistake phoned up to ask “is it sold or not?”. I was elated to hear that the sale of earlier that day had fallen through so arranged to meet at the shop the following morning. We hauled up the anchor straight away and hotfooted it back up the river arriving at the marina just before dark.

As I was securing to a mooring buoy though I suddenly noticed that I was surrounded by a fine buzzing noise. I looked straight up in case I was under a power line (not good when you have a mast) but there was no sign. I peered out into the gathering gloom and saw that I was surrounded by the biggest mosquitoes I have ever seen. Suddenly the mesh around all the houses balconies made sense and we went into MosCon 5 locking down the boat and setting out on an extermination spree down below where some intruders had already penetrated. They were the size of sparrows, fair dinkum!

Shaun and Bill unloading the dinghy

Shaun and Bill unloading the dinghy

The following morning we put Camomile alongside and went off to find her new tender.

 

 

 

 

 

Launching the dinghy

Launching the dinghy

 

Mission accomplished

Mission accomplished

Shaun was quick and efficient so within an hour we were back with a shiny new inflatable which was duly introduced to Camomile and they were both told to “play nicely” Guess who?

 

 

 

 

 

Bill with the new dinghy that's going to be called Rocco and is a boy.

Bill with the new dinghy that’s going to be called Rocco and is a boy.

Sue had the first sit in Rocco

Sue had the first sit in Rocco

 

 

 

 

 

And guess who had to have the first go in him too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rocco on Camomile's stern

Rocco on Camomile’s stern

So with the dinghy davited, again we motored back down the river to the anchorage.  We could now get ashore and it was great to be mobile again as we rowed to the beach that evening.  We walked across the sandy spit by the Broadwater to walk along the beach where the surf pounded the shallow approaches.

 

 

Mike delivering the new 15hp Yamaha

Mike delivering the new 15hp Yamaha

Rowing is all right but it is overrated when you need to travel a proper distance so it was anchor up the next day and into Runaway Bay marina where we could unload the bikes and cycle to the outboard suppliers.  After cycling more miles around Labrador than our bottoms are used to and some thorough interrogation of the local suppliers we became the proud owners of another outboard motor which was duly delivered to Runaway Bay Marina the following morning.

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Wahoo!

Wahoo!

 

 

My turn to play wahoo! The boys are really going to enjoy having a go with this one too.

 

 

 

 

Camomile was finally complete again so we were all set to make our way up to Brisbane where we were planning a family reunion with my sister Kate and family and our Aussie cousins.

Mission accomplished.

Camomile in storm force 10

Camomile on the wharf at Port Stephens

Camomile on the wharf at Port Stephens

We left Nelson bay on the southern coast of Port Stephens 06.00 Thursday 21st for a day sail to Camden 81 miles north.  The early morning forecast was for a southeasterly 10 – 15kts with a 1-metre swell.  There was increased wind forecast to arrive much further north the following evening and heavy airs the day after that giving us between 36 and 48 hours to do a 12-hour passage.  We had been in Port Stephens for 10 days and it was time to move north towards our rendezvous with my sister Kate and her family who were to fly to Brisbane on 14th March.

We hoisted full sails motoring for an hour to the entrance and after rounding the headland we turned off the engine and sailed gently on at 3 – 4kts gradually picking up more wind from the south east.  At 10.00 we rounded Sugarloaf Point, the wind perked up to about 18kts and we were zipping along nicely, we would easily reach Camden by 5 or 6pm.

After all that time sitting gently at anchor, the short chop made Sue a little queasy so she retreated below for a short snooze. All was well.

At 14.00 we were off of Cape Hawke and the wind had picked up to 22kts so we put the first reef in the main and rolled away some of genoa.

Passing Crowdy head at 17.00 we were greeted by a wonderful display of dolphins.  They were swimming from right to left and seemed to be pointing to Crowdy head harbour; did they know something we didn’t?  The wind was still south easterly and blowing 20 – 25kts, well within our comfort zone but up on the forecast.

Camden came into view at 18.30 but the last hour had seen a rapidly rising swell from a metre to well over 2 metres which gave me a concern for entry over the bar. We furled the genoa away and fired up the engine ready for our final approach.  To quote from ‘Cruising the New South Wales Coast’ pilot book “Camden Haven is a breakwater harbour between Forster and Port Macquarie.  Its bar enjoys good protection from southeast swells under the lee of Point Perpendicular.”

As we approached shallow water the swell kicked higher but, looking ahead at the entrance I was appalled to see a wall of white water breaking heavily right across the bar. I took her as far as the 4metre contour but realised that the conditions were dangerous so aborted our approach and turned back into deep water.

Now what? The strengthening southerly ruled out a return to Port Stevens so we called the VMR (voluntary marine rescue – a cross between the coastguard and the RNLI) on the vhf. They confirmed my feeling about the entrance and suggested we try Port Macquarie or, failing that, the deeper Coffs Harbour. An hour later we called the VMR at Port Macquarie and they confirmed their entrance was also treacherous leaving us no option but to continue overnight to either Trial bay, which faces north and would give us some protection from the southerlies, or Coffs harbour, 80 miles distant.  We were now getting 25kt winds from the south east with 30kt gusts and a rising easterly swell making things very uncomfortable. Needless to say the forecast had changed beyond all recognition now but, as we put a second reef in before dark, alarmingly the VMR were now forecasting strong wind warnings coming much earlier than predicted all the way up the coast. The weather system was accelerating well beyond expectations. Our passage window had all but closed so now we had to make best speed and find what shelter we could.

We were in for a busy night but Sue found a chilli in the freezer and managed to heat it up for dinner despite the rapidly deteriorating conditions.  Unfortunately she took one mouthful and promptly brought it back along with her lunch. She then decided she felt better, ate the rest of it and kept it down!

It was a difficult overnight passage because the swell had now gone round to the east and was slapping us sideways making sleep almost impossible as the sails and the steering needed constant attention. The Hydrovane wasn’t coping with these conditions well on its own so I engaged the electric autopilot as well and between them they kept our course more steady. By 22.00 the winds were 30kts with 35kt gusts.  After good early progress we had  also found the south flowing East Australia current which, having given us several knots of speed on the way down, was now pushing hard against us as we clawed our way north through occasional but intense squalls and lashing rain.

After an arduous night with very little sleep we had progressed slowly up the coast.  At 06.00 we had travelled 130 miles in 24 hours and tried calling the VMR at Trial bay.  They reported that there was some shelter in the southern corner of the bay but the bar across the river was impassable as expected.  We considered anchoring for a few hours to get some sleep but the weather was clearly deteriorating and they were forecasting that the wind was going back to north which would put the Trial Bay anchorage on a dangerous lee shore.

It was a harsh knock to hear the storm warning called. By 09.00 we were getting full gale force wind of 35 to 40kt with 45kts gusts in heavy squalls.  We were also now able to hear Coffs harbour VMR on the radio, called in our position and said we were battling towards them.  The officer on watch gave us the grave news that Coffs Harbour like all ports within 100 miles were closed due to the conditions and approaching storm. We were later told it’s only been closed 3 times in the last 20 years.

The trap was sprung. We were alone in foul conditions, on a lee shore with no where to go.  We put the third reef in the main and hove to under a scrap of genoa trying to get some rest before we were hit by the full force of the weather.

I lay down on the saloon sole and Sue wedged herself on the leeward saloon berth but it was impossible; like sleeping in a washing machine.  By now the swells were 4 metres and we were being buffeted by rogue waves.

We couldn’t go back against the wind, the weather was coming from the north so we didn’t want to go further, the swell was coming from the east and to the west was a lee shore.

The boat was coping ok at that point but then I noticed that the top car on the main sail had broken away from the sail.  We had to motor head to wind to get the sail down so I could try to repair it. We raised the sail again but half an hour later it had broken again and was flapping wildly promising to break free altogether.  After turning into the wind again a big gust whipped it badly and it started tearing.  We fought it down and lashed it firmly to the boom so it couldn’t do any more damage to the stack pack which had been ripped by the flailing main.

We were sitting ducks without the mainsail so oriented the boat northeast to close with Coffs and get some more sea-room with just a scrap of genoa and trailing a drogue to keep us from broaching on the waves.  Unfortunately the waves were now coming at all angles so we were still getting green water over the decks and one rogue wave came  over the starboard quarter knocking us down, at the same time water poured over the side and down the hatch flooding onto the navigation table.  Sue quickly grabbed towels and started mopping but there was water every where.  All our charts for the next part of our trip to SE Asia were in the chart table and Sue lifted them out quickly laying them on the fore peak bunk to dry out. Water had got into the electrics and the wifi dongle was swimming so that was unlikely to work again.

Later, Sue was sitting up in the cockpit keeping watch when another breaking wave hit the side of the boat and poured into the cockpit again.  This one ripped the spray hood and the weight of the water bent the davit leaving the dinghy hanging perilously half in and half out of the water. We were to have a further 2 knockdowns during the next 24 hours with spreaders in the water and solid green water sluicing over our cockpit combing.

I rushed to the aft deck to try and do something to save the dinghy but it was too late.  I considered towing it on a long line but realised that the last thing I needed now was a rope around the prop so I got my knife and cut it loose.  I think that was the worse moment for me as we watched our dear little dinghy with Sue’s homemade cover and clever beaching wheels float forlornly away into the chaos. I was sure I would never see her again.

The waves were now up to 10 meters high, the wind had stopped howling and become a hellish screech driving blinding spume across the surface of the mountainous sea under a black sky rent by cracks of lightning and thunder which could barely make itself heard above the melee.We decided to take the rest of the sail in and run with bare poles although our biggest problem was that we were always too close to the land.  We took the drogue up and made our way out into deeper water then placing it again and lashing the helm so we hove to at around 45 degrees to the waves which our slick disrupted enough to stop most of the beam breakers coming down on us

Some breaking waves continued to hit us though doing more damage but thankfully mostly superficial. Good old Westerly “tough as old boots”!

Sue was doing fantastically well despite being obviously really frightened because we just didn’t know how long this horror was going to last.  The VMR, clearly concerned, were keeping a two hour schedule with us, updating us as soon as a new forecast came out and were keeping police and rescue authorities appraised of our predicament. Sue was also in contact with our dear friends Dave and Jacqui on the yacht Jackster by text looking for any glimmer of hope that the wind was abating. It’s good to talk, at any rate it keeps your morale up and we were both in need of that.

We stayed out for a second night being blasted by 60kt gusts and huge waves.  Sue was so scared; it was a lot worse than the Columbian coast but we hugged and got on with it, what a lady!

After 24 hours sitting outside Coffs harbour lying-a-hull with a drogue (which I had to relay 4 times) and a failed autohelm we assumed we could go in the next morning but the VMR informed us they still had white water right across the entrance.  We motored back out to sea for a couple of hours to relay the drogue and went down below, put the hatches in and pretended it wasn’t happening; in fact we both went to sleep, we were exhausted.  We woke up at 10am and looked out to see that the wind and swell had both dropped slightly.  I called the VMR and asked them to describe the conditions at the entrance. They informed us that the wind had dropped a bit, there were periods of slight swell but they still had 3-4 metre breakers.  However they considered, with the tide relatively high, there was a minimum of 4 meters depth.  The forecast was for worsening weather and, although we had no serious structural damage I was concerned about the cumulative effect of the problems we did have. I had only just managed to bring the instruments and autopilot back on line with a jury rigged by pass in the electrics and had some concern that they had been affected by the electrical disturbances during the night.

We sorely needed to get in so I decided to go in and “loiter” near the entrance waiting for a smoother patch before making a dash.

The torn sprayhood

The torn sprayhood

Finally I saw a door in the swells open and piled the power on hell for leather towards the entrance. Just when I though I had got it right a wave reared up behind us, followed by another and then a final huge breaker. I really thought we were going to broach or pitch-pole  but surging forward in it’s powerful churning foam we surfed for a full 20 seconds, the longest 20 of my life but we made it with the VMR guy guiding us on the radio and the boat equivalent of a handbrake turn into the calm of the inner harbour.  Once in the marina it all calmed down and we motored to our berth.  Sue just burst into tears of relief, we had made it and were greeted by a group of VMR’s, yotties, and marina staff who had been following or supporting us in our drama.  Our heartfelt thanks go out to all of you who have helped and befriended us, it means more to us than I can describe. Thank you.

The torn sail

The torn sail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bent solar panels

The bent solar panels

 

Our poor dinghy washed up on the beach

Our poor dinghy washed up on the beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

along with the outboard still attached to the dinghy by it's security wire

along with the outboard still attached to the dinghy by it’s security wire

We didn’t take any photos during the event but these are some of the damage.

February Update

I haven’t written any thing for the website for ages because we’ve been so busy but I wanted to fill in some gaps before we continue on our travels.

 

Pelicans waiting to be fed

Pelicans waiting to be fed

After Australia Day the weather took a turn for the worse and we couldn’t leave Sydney until 30th January.  It was sad leaving Sydney for the last time, we had enjoyed our time in the city but it was time to start heading north again.

We sailed to Pittwater where we spent 4 days with rain on and off so we didn’t do a lot.  Monday 4th February we arrived at Lake Macquarie.  A saltwater lake that covers an area 4 times the size of Sydney harbour.  We spent a week in the lake trying various anchorages as the wind changed direction; they had some nice pelicans there.

SONY DSCOn the 7th February we took the bus to Newcastle, which occupies a bizarre parallel universe to its namesake in northern England.  Both were once grimy industrial mill towns based on coal mining that in recent years have been transformed into pleasant places to visit.  Both have a fanatical devotion to their local sports teams, although for the Australian Newcastle its rugby rather than football, but that’s where the similarity ends. The Australian Newcastle is sunny most of the time and a surf beach around every bend.

Fort Scratchley

Fort Scratchley

We took a walk to fort Scratchley, which was one of the few gun installations in Australia to fire a gun in anger in WWII.  On 8th June 1942 a Japanese sub suddenly surfaced raining shells on the city, Fort Scratchley returned fire negating the threat after just four rounds.

 

 

 

A walk around the casements

A walk around the casements

 

 

It’s now open to the public with a fascinating walk through the old casements and a view over Nobby’s beach and out to the harbour entrance.

 

 

 

A walk through the gardens

A walk through the gardens

 

The obelisk stands on the site of the old windmill

The obelisk stands on the site of the old windmill

We continued our walk along the sea front, through the gardens and up to the obelisk, which stands on the site of one of the earliest windmills in Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

Tomaree Head at the entrance to Port Stephens

Tomaree Head at the entrance to Port Stephens

The 11th February brought brisk winds, which gave us a good sail to Port Stephens.  We spent a couple of days doing ‘jobs’ (the jobs list never seems to get smaller) tied to a buoy in Nelson bay.  Valentines day was gloriously sunny so we decided to unwrap the bikes and go on a bike ride.  We headed east to the Tomaree National park where ‘you’re bound to spot a koala or wallaby’, how many did we see? None!!

 

The view across One Mile beach to Fingal bay

The view across One Mile beach to Fingal bay

 

One mile beach on the left and Shoal bay on the right

One mile beach on the left and Shoal bay on the right

But we left the bikes and climbed the Tomaree Head Summit walk and enjoyed the spectacular views back down across the peninsular with Shoal bay on one side and across One Mile beach stretching across to Fingal Bay on the other.

 

 

 

 

Fingal beach

Fingal beach

We climbed back down and cycled to Fingal Bay for our picnic lunch.  We treated ourselves to an Indian meal in the evening for Valentines Day.

 

 

 

 

 

Another lovely beach

Another lovely beach

Nelson Bay was hosting a fishing competition over the weekend which would have made the anchorage uncomfortable with all the wash from the gin palaces so we motored across the bay and crept up to Hawks nest on the flood tide touching the bottom a couple of times.  There was an anchorage at the top with enough water for us to stay for a few days. Hawks Nest and its neighbour Tea Gardens were sleepy little towns where not very much happens!  We went ashore for a walk and found a lovely beach on the other side of the peninsular.

This was the winning Marlin

This was the winning Marlin

Sunday we crept back down the river to Nelson just in time to see the winning team land their huge Marlin weighing in at a massive 180kgs.  It was a beautiful creature and I really felt it should be swimming free but at least it was donated to the local Meals on Wheels and not wasted.

 

 

 

 

Resting at Harbour bay

Resting at Harbour bay

Monday 18th we went on a longer bike ride. We stopped for a rest at Harbour bay (the Aussies aren’t very imaginative with their names although there wasn’t a harbour in this bay).

 

 

 

 

 

The beach at Anna bay

The beach at Anna bay

Then continued on to Anna bay at the western end of the Tomaree National park (not a single koala or wallaby spotted again) backed by the amazing Worimi Conservation lands home to the Worimi people who have lived here for thousands of years.

 

 

 

The ascent up the dunes was steeper than it looks

The ascent up the dunes was steeper than it looks

Walking on top of the dunes

Walking on top of the dunes

The Worimi Conservation Lands are the longest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere stretching over 35km.   Think Lawrence of Arabia to get an idea of the sight surrounding us; shimmering sand as far as the eye could see.

 

 

 

Camomile alongside at the Nelson jetty

Camomile alongside at the Nelson jetty

 

 

 

 

On our return we took Camomile into the harbour for our 3 free days on the pontoon inside.  It was nice to be alongside for a change and spent the next few days doing shopping and washing.

This is Bracken who belonged to the boat next door but decided we were a good bet for a peaceful sleep while his owner wasn’t looking. Isn’t he beautiful?  I wish we could keep him but he had to go back.

 

Bracken adopted us for the afternoon

Bracken adopted us for the afternoon

 

After being in Port Stephens for 10 days Thursday 21st brought a weather window allowing us to leave Port Stephens for Camden Haven.  We had dolphins swimming in our bow as we left and a good weather window ahead of us……

 

 

Coffs Harbour entrance on a calmer day

Coffs Harbour entrance on a calmer day

After the storm (see next blog) we managed to get into Coffs harbour on Saturday 23rd.  We were befriended by lots of people all anxious to hear our story and how we managed to survive the storm, including Graham from the VMR who we had spoken to every 2 hours throughout the night.  He had been plotting our position and keeping the Maritime services informed of our position who, he said, would have come out to rescue us if any thing drastic had happened.  That would have meant abandoning ship and having let the dinghy go Bill was determined Camomile wasn’t going the same way.

The dead outboard (not our boat in the background)

The dead outboard (not our boat in the background)

Graham informed us our dinghy was on the beach about 5 miles away and took Bill out to see it.  Sadly it lay on the beach looking very sad full of sand with the outboard laying next to it with just it’s security wire holding them together.  The outboard was put in Graham’s Ute and brought back to the boat but there wasn’t anything Bill could do to revive it.  I spent the rest of the day trying to get everything back to where it belonged.  I had to wash the floor 3 times to remove all traces of the salt water.

The bent Hydrovane shaft

The bent Hydrovane shaft

Sunday was spent in the laundry washing all the towels that had been used to mop up the numerous dousings and we were kindly invited to Grahams house for a welcome meal, he also generously lent us his vehicle to borrow while we were in the harbour.

 

 

 

The bent frame holding the solar panels

The bent frame holding the solar panels

and the bent davit

and the bent davit

 

It meant that for the next few days we were able to take the torn sail and the sailbag to the sail maker to be repaired and the bent metalwork to Gary the metalworker.  It was strange travelling in a car again.

 

 

 

Sue busy sewing

Sue busy sewing

 

 

The sprayhood had been torn both sides with the weight of seawater on it.  We stripped it off the frame and I set about repairing it.

 

 

 

The torn sprayhood

The torn sprayhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All beautiful again

All beautiful again

 

Fortunately it had torn along the seam, which was quite easy to re-sew, but the area around the handle was badly shredded so I had to sew a patch over it.

 

 

 

The tear on the other side

The tear on the other side

All patched up

All patched up

 

 

The tear along the other side needed a patch too.

Thursday 28th the sail and metalwork was ready to pick up so off we went in Graham’s car to pick everything up.  We also did a big shop.  Life is so much easier with a car.

 

 

The footpath running past the marina up on to Mutton bird island

The footpath running past the marina up on to Mutton bird island

It was great being in a marina for a change, each morning I went for my run up over Mutton bird island to look at the sea.  Gradually during our stay it had calmed down but it took several days, good job we came in when we did.   Bill worked hard getting the boat back into working order so we could leave, he takes up the next part of the story.

Camomile safely tucked up in the marina

Camomile safely tucked up in the marina

Happy Birthday Australia

SONY DSC

The Soren Larsen

Saturday 26th January was Australia day.  It was created to celebrate the arrival of the ‘first fleet’ arriving in Botany bay in 1788.  The Aussies commemorate the occasion with a day of events.

The first event in Sydney was at 11.00 with a Ferrython.  This  is a race of four old ferries starting at the Opera house, encircling the harbour and ending with a finishing line under the harbour bridge.  We decided the best vantage point would be from the bridge.  On our way across we spotted Camomile’s old friend the English ship Soren Larsen, berthed next to a local tall ship called Southern Star.  They were both taking part in the Tall ships race later in the afternoon.

 

Walking on Sydney Harbour bridge

Walking on Sydney Harbour bridge

 

 

 

 

We were pleased to walk on the bridge because it now means we’ve driven in a car, been driven in a bus, sailed under and walked over the top of Sydney harbour bridge as well as walking across it.

 

 

 

 

 

RAN helicopter

RAN helicopter

 

 

While we were waiting for the ferries to return a RAN helicopter flew over flying an Australian navy ensign much to the delight of the crowd who cheered as it passed by.

 

 

 

and the winner was Zip

and the winner was Zip

Eventually the ferries arrived and the red one called Zip, who also happens to be the main sponsor for the Sydney festival, won the race.  The ANZ blue one came a close second.

 

 

 

 

 

 

They had a lot of followers

They had a lot of followers

 

 

The ferries were followed by an assortment of watercraft that wanted to join the spectacle.  We had considered taking Camomile out but it would have complicated things for later.  We had a good view from the bridge.

 

 

SONY DSCWe had some lunch then took up station in front of the Opera house with our friends Dave and Jacqui from Jackster to watch the Tall ships race scheduled for a 2pm start.  At 1.30 while we were chatting three RAAF F/A-18 hornets flew past.  They were so fast it was difficult to photograph them.  This is the best photo I have of them coming back round over the Harbour bridge, a group on a walk over the top of the bridge had a brilliant view of them.  I held my hands over my ears as they roared passed.  The Aussies were all cheering.

The Soren Larsen won the Tall Ships race

The Soren Larsen won the Tall Ships race

 

The Tall ships race started at the other end of the harbour and again ended under the bridge.

 

 

 

 

The James Craig came second

The James Craig came second

To our delight and cheers the Soren Larsen won followed by the wonderful James Craig that we had visited in the Maritime museum.

The beautiful Endeavour replica

The beautiful Endeavour replica

 

 

 

Third to finish was a replica of the Endeavour that is also normally on display at the Maritime museum.

 

 

 

"It's a fair cop Gov"!

“It’s a fair cop Gov”!

On our way back into the city we came across this group of policemen with very little to do so Jacqui and I had our photo taken next to them.  It looks like Jacqui has a guilty conscience as she’s offering her wrists for the handcuffs.

 

 

 

Can you see us in the middle?

Can you see us in the middle?

On the way back home we passed the Museum of Contemporary Art that had this exhibit outside.  At first sight it looks like a satellite dish but it’s not its art.  It acts like a big mirror; we stood on the inside and took this photo.  I’m in the centre with Bill standing behind me taking the photo.  It’s very clever.

It's art mate!

It’s art mate!

We made our way home and packed up our picnic ready for the free concert in the Domain in the evening.  It’s like ‘Party in the Park’ meets ‘Last night of the Proms’, although on a much smaller scale, being part of the Sydney festival taking place over 3 weeks in January.  This would be our third and final free concert we’ve seen.  The first was soul music, (when we were lucky enough to have VIP tickets), the second was jazz and blues and the third was going to be classical.

Ready for the concert

Ready for the concert

With an 8pm start the four of us got there just after 6pm to be sure of a good spot.  The concert included performances of iconic classical music from Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic masterpieces featured in A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Shut as well as a few favourites from the English Proms concerts.  It finished with a Sydney tradition of the 1812 Overture complete with ‘firing canons’, cathedral bells and fireworks; it was an amazing finale.  I’ll attempt to post a short video of the end but no promises.   The rain held off but the next morning the heavens opened just in time for the bank holiday weekend – just like home really.

November Update

We are enjoying life in Australia and I haven’t had a chance to post any blogs for ages so this is an update of what we did in November.

Enjoying Kingfisher resort

Enjoying Kingfisher resort

We enjoyed our time in Bundaberg but we were anxious to start our cruising in Australia.  On the 1st November we sailed back down the river and across Hervey bay to enter the Great Sandy Straight in the lee of Fraser island.  Created over hundreds of thousands of years from sand drifting off the east coast of mainland Australia, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world.  It’s over 60 miles long and the only place where rainforest grows on sand.  We anchored off the Kingfisher resort hotel, a very yachtie friendly place.

2With the main part of the resort set further up the hillside, down by the waters edge there were showers, a restaurant and even a pool we could use. We went on some nice walks around the surrounding area through the rainforest returning along the beach.

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These tree roots had washed up on the beach.

Bird life at Pelican bay

Bird life at Pelican bay

 

 

 

 

On the 5th we motor sailed further down through the Sandy straights carrying the flood tide to Turkey island where at high tide the water flow changes direction.  We continued on the ebb to Tin can bay where we spent a few days in Pelican bay.  While there we were visited by some dolphins and saw lots of bird life. On the 7th we went to bed surrounded by 8 boats.  We were all waiting for the 2pm tide the next day to cross the wide bar bay, a notorious spot in these parts for high waves and confused sea.  We woke to find everyone had gone they had obvious decided to cross at 2am even through the locals advised against it.  It must have been something we said!!

Entrance to Brisbane river

Entrance to Brisbane river

 

We left at 2pm as planned and, after uneventfully crossing the bar, sailed overnight to Brisbane.  We entered the river just after 8am and sailed all the way to the city centre on the genny.  It was a good way to enter the city and London could learn a thing or two from Brisbane.  We passed lots of commercial wharfs with big container ships berthed alongside but they looked very clean and tidy, no graffiti or piles of rubbish lying around.

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The same for the power stations and other factories set along the waterside.  They were surrounded by nice gardens and walkways and the gaps kept giving us tantalising glimpses of the CBD area as we got closer.

The CBD in the distance

The CBD in the distance

 

 

 

It all made the journey up the river very pleasant.

Beautiful waterside house

Beautiful waterside house

Sailing up the river

Sailing up the river

Our view from the mooring

Our view from the mooring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We finally rolled away the sail as we approached the Story bridge, which is their main bridge where it’s possible to climb over the top – no I won’t be doing that!  We tied fore and aft to pile mooring next to the Botanical gardens right in the heart of the city.  There are showers, a launderette, dinghy pontoon and free water all for A$70 (£46) a week, a bargain for Australia I can assure you.

The Wintergarden shopping mall

The Wintergarden shopping mall

 

 

The weekend of 10th November was spent exploring the city.  We were really impressed with Brisbane, again no graffiti anywhere, lots of brightly lit shops (lots and lots of shops, yes!), nice wide pathways, and a good sprinkling of cafes to keep me supplied with cappuccinos.

A close up of the façade of butterflies

A close up of the façade of butterflies

 

 

This shopping mall is called the Wintergardens and the outside is covered with this beautiful perforated metal facia with large butterflies attached to it.  It looked delightful but it’s very difficult to pick it out in these photos.

Bill with Helen and cousin John

Bill with Helen and cousin John

 

 

 

Monday 12th was an exciting day because we had arranged to meet Bill’s long lost relative.  Bill’s Grandmother’s brother emigrated as a young man and John is his son so he’s Bill 1st cousin once removed.  We met him and his wife Helen for coffee.  We had a lovely time talking about families before they came back to have a look at Camomile.  We’ll catch up again in March when Kate and family come across from NZ for a holiday in the Brisbane area.

Inside the Brisbane parliament building

Inside the Brisbane parliament building

 

 

On the 15th we did the tourist route.  Brisbane is the capital of the state of Queensland and has it’s own state parliament.  (The federal parliament is in Canberra)  The parliament building is open to the public and offers a free-guided tour.  As free is a magical word to cruisers we went along to have a look.  We were shown around by a very interesting man who told us all about their parliamentary system.  The building dates from 1868 which is old for Oz and looked very attractive.  Just around the corner was the Italian Renaissance-style treasury building with it’s lavish façade which is now a 24-hour casino.

The city hall

The city hall

 

 

 

Moving onto King George’s square we came across Brisbane’s city hall that was getting a huge makeover and sadly was closed but looked as though it would definitely been worth a look.

Quaint church

Quaint church

 

 

Opposite the other side of the square was this quaint little church which was dwarfed by the surrounding buildings.  The Aussies like to keep their heritage buildings and just build their skyscrapers around them.  Strangely they seem to compliment each other.

A friendly kangaroo

A friendly kangaroo

 

 

I had been complaining that I still hadn’t seen a kangaroo since we’d arrived in Australia when we came across these very cleverly built sculptures made from engine parts sitting around on the pavement.

Chris cooking the 'snags' on the barbie

Chris cooking the ‘snags’ on the barbie

 

 

 

 

 

 

While in Brisbane we caught up with some Aussie cruisers that we had met in the south Pacific.  We met Chris and Cate with their lovely girls Grace and Sarah from Equinox on the ICA rally last year and it was great to catch up again .  Cate very kindly took me shopping in the car and, more importantly, offered me the use of her washing machine, a wonderful offer to a fellow cruiser.  We joined them for a proper Aussie Barbie while my sheets and curtains churned around in her washing machine. They live in a pretty Queenslander house with the main rooms on the upper floor overlooking a huge balcony and the garage and lesser rooms downstairs.  This is Chris cooking snags (sausages) on the Barbie, delicious they were too.

Newspaper headlines after the storm

Newspaper headlines after the storm

 

 

 

The next day we had the mother of all thunder storms.  Bill and I had been out for a walk in the morning the other side of the river when the heavens opened.  By the time we caught the ferry back across the river we were soaked to the skin.  Later the lightening became really violent, crashing over our heads every few minutes.  This photo was on the front page of the newspaper the next day and shows how ferocious the lightening became.  As seems to be normal these days the weather forecasters didn’t predict it.

Kennedy, Sue, Bill, Jackie and Gary

Kennedy, Sue, Bill, Jackie and Gary

 

 

 

The 20th saw some waifs and strays otherwise known as cruisers head out of the city for the day.  Gary and Jackie from the Canadian boat Inspiration Lady (which took Gary 23 years to build from scratch!) and Kennedy an American single hander on a boat called Far Star joined us on the bus to Mt Coot-tha.  This was a ‘pink’ trip to make up for the ‘blue’ trip of the day before which saw us touring the hardware stores of an out of town retail park.  First stop was the botanical gardens where we were shown around by a very nice lady who told us all about the plants of the region and the history of the gardens.  After a nice lunch in the café we headed further up the hill to the look out.  With a perfect blue-sky day we had a fantastic view over the city and the surrounding suburbs.

A Brisbane train

A Brisbane train

 

On the 21st we were back on the train for a trip north to Shorncliffe to meet some more cruisers from the town of Redcliffe.  We had teamed up with Lloyd and Lynelle of Chappie in French Polynesia when we fell behind on the Blue Water rally in 2010.  We’d said goodbye in Fiji but had always promised we would look them up when we made it to Oz and it was wonderful to meet up with them again.

Lynelle and Lloyd outside their home near Redcliffe

Lynelle and Lloyd outside their home near Redcliffe

 

 

 

They drove us around the area and took us out for a lovely lunch before going back to see their lovely Aussie home.  Thanks Guys it was great to see you again.

Pittwater

Pittwater

 

 

 

 

Having spent over 2 weeks in Brisbane we felt we ought to get moving before we took root in Brisbane, something that would have been very easy to do.  Bill had been keeping a regular eye on the weather, watching for a northerly to head our way.  It arrived on the 23rd so we dropped our mooring lines and headed back down the river with the ebb tide.  We spent the day sailing across Morton bay and down through the Broadwater.  We anchored overnight by the Gold coast seaway and joined a group of yachts at 5am the next morning for the trip south.  There were Jackie and Jake on the American boat Hokele’a and Mike and Liz on the British boat Aurora B who we kept in touch with by VHF on the trip. We had met both boats before in the South Pacific; the cruising network is very small. It was a fast passage with 2 or 3kts of current with us all the way down.  Originally we had planned on 3 days and nights but we arrived in Pittwater at lunchtime on the third day having travelled at an average of 7.6kts all the way, probably one of the fastest passages on our travels so far.  Mike on Aurora B had arranged for the 3 boats to pick up buoys at Church Point in Pittwater harbour.  That evening we watched another one of Australia’s thunderstorms.

Liz with her birthday cake

Liz with her birthday cake

The 28th was Liz on Aurora B’s birthday so I made her a cake and Jackie found some balloons.  The 6 of us enjoyed a lovely afternoon celebrating on Aurora B.  So that was November.

Bundaberg, Australia

The entrance to Bundaberg

Our position on 19th October 2012

24º 45.4 South

152º 54.6 East

Bundaberg, Australia

As we approached the outer buoy the sea changed from Pacific blue to sea green.  The entrance reminded us of a big Littlehampton with its training wall and beautiful orange ‘sandcastle sand’ beach.   We were very excited to be in Australia at last.

Charlie the cormorant

We arrived on the 19th with this shag (we think that’s what it was), which had landed on the boat the day before and roosted on the solar panel all night, flying off as we arrived at the outer entrance buoy.  There were 2 other boats on the quarantine dock, Aurora B with Mike and Liz from the UK and Yellow dog with Oliver and Daniel from Switzerland, both of whom we had met up in the islands.  We also discovered Lorrigray is here, an ex blue water rally boat. The marina prices here are similar to the UK so we dropped our anchor in the bay outside.

The drive-through liquor store

Bundaberg marina is outside the town near a village called Burnett heads with the town of Bundaberg a further 8 miles up the river.  Burnett heads is a pleasant 20 minute walk along the waterfront.  There’s a hairdressers, where I had a much needed hair cut, a bakers, chemist, small hardware shop, a fish and chip shop, a pub selling good food and a ‘drive through’ drink shop.  This is an amazing concept where you literally drive in, give your order at the window, it’s put together, put in the back of your car and you drive off without even needing to get out!

The Bundaberg barrel

The supermarket next door was my first stop to restock the boat after the customs had relieved me of the last of my meat, fruit & veg.  It was wonderful to be able to enter a supermarket with a list and get every thing on it.  The cost of living here is quite high but the prices aren’t as bad as I was expecting.   They also offer an excellent service of a free minibus ride back to the marina.  The Port2port rally that we have joined has been busy organising various drinks evenings, barbeques, pot luck suppers, chart marking sessions and outings.  This is the Bundaberg barrel where the local ginger beer is made that we visited one afternoon on Judy’s free tours of the area.

“I want that one”

We also went to Bunnings, the Australian version of B&Q where Bill spotted this toolbox.  “No you can’t have it”

We’ve kept ourselves busy doing washing, interneting, sorting out the boat, although fortunately we didn’t have any major breakages on the trip down, socialising and generally getting used to living in a first world country again.

Didgeridoos being played

On Saturday 27th we went to the Lighthouse festival organised by the Burnett Heads rotary, which was a bit like a summer fete.  This guy was playing Didgeridoos and they were giving off an amazing sound. We spent the morning wandering around the stalls and listening to local bands playing on the stage.  In the afternoon we lifted the anchor and sailed upstream into the town, a distance of about 8 miles.  The surrounding area reminded us of the east coast of England because it’s very flat and as we floated up the river it was possible to see Bundaberg across the flood plains.

Invicta the steam train

On Sunday we walked to the botanical gardens a pleasant oasis of tropical shrubs, towering trees and flowering gardens surrounding a few small lakes. There is a little steam train running around the perimeter that is maintained by a local preservation society.  It formally spent it’s working life transporting sugar cane that is grown prolifically in this area to the sugar mills.  I’ve loved steam trains since I was a little girl when my Dad often took me to see them and the ride brought back happy memories.

Hinkler house

The gardens are also home to the Hinkler House museum set inside the house of Bunderberg’s famous son, aviator Bert Hinkler, who made the first solo flight between England and Australia in 1928.  The house was painstakingly relocated from Southampton in 1983.  As it’s so totally different from normal Australian houses it looked very strange in it’s setting.  We had coffee in the railway café then returned to Camomile anchored in the river.

 

Camomile anchored by the bridge in Bundaberg

 

 

Bundaberg gardens in the town

We spent 2 days in the town wandering around the shops, it seems you can buy just about any thing here; Bill even managed to get a new battery pack for his cordless drill so he was happy.  The town looked very similar to many we saw in NZ, being laid out in blocks it’s easy to get your bearings.  The gardens in front of the town hall had been freshly planted with summer bedding.  We discovered the RSL club (returning servicemen league) similar to the British legion in the UK, where, for one dollar, it was possible to join and enjoy the delicious, reasonably priced meals while sitting in an air-conditioned lounge overlooking the river.

A view of Burnett heads as we left

On Wednesday 31st we motored back down the river to Burnett heads in time for the Halloween/pirate/pizza night organised by the Port2port people before leaving the next day to start our journey south.

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