Category Archives: Westerly
The first week in April brought strong winds that delayed our departure from Moreton bay until Saturday 6th April when we were able to sail to Mooloolaba, I love that name. We spent the weekend anchored in the harbour. Monday morning we contacted the marina and got a berth for 2 nights. It was great to use the showers, washing machines, etc. The marina was also close to a huge shopping mall so we were able to restock the boat. Lawries boat services was next door to the marina and after talking to Kieran the manager, we arranged for Camomile to be lifted at 3pm and held in the slings overnight on the Tuesday. While Bill jet washed the hull I scrapped the little barnacles off. Bill scraped and greased the prop and also managed to get a coat of antifoul on the keel. The hull still has the Cuprotec coating, which seems to be holding up although Bill has had to repair it in places. We don’t have any photos because we had to work quickly before it got dark plus it rained most of the time we were out. Kieran arrived at 7.30 in the morning to put us back in the water for our second night in the marina. More rain.
Thursday 11th we went back to anchor out in the harbour to find our friends Dave and Jacqui on Jackster had arrived. It was great to catch up. They were interested in hearing about the storm as Jacqui had been a tower of strength texting me throughout our ‘ordeal’. With more rain falling we took the bus to Maroochydore, another lovely name, for a mooch around the shops and Bill found another big toolbox, this one had a beer fridge!!
There were strong winds blowing all week but on Sunday evening it was forecast to drop so, after a fantastic walk along the beach in the afternoon, we motored out of the harbour at 9pm with Raven I and Far Star for an overnight sail to Fraser Island. It was an uneventful passage, we managed a couple of hours sailing before the wind died completely. It’s been such a problem travelling up this coast, there’s too much wind for 6 or 7 days then it drops completely for a day or two before building up again. We have to watch the forecast constantly and as soon as there’s a weather window drop everything and go.
The entrance to the Sandy straights leading to Fraser island has a notorious bar across it called the wide bay bar. To avoid it would mean a 24hr passage at least around Fraser island so we called the VMR to check the condition at 9am. They were reporting rough conditions but no breaking waves so, after taking the entry waypoints from them, decided to cross it. The bar itself was fine, although we had 3 metre waves around us; the worse bit was travelling along the inside of it. As it’s name suggests it’s a wide bar and it’s very important not to cut the corner off and we followed the waypoints the VMR had given us but there were hugh waves breaking across the shallow part of the bar making the passage feel like we were in a washing machine. It took half an hour to reach the calmer water inside when I was able to radio back to Far Star and Raven to let them know what it was like. As they are both single handers they were brave to come over but we all survived and proceeded to motor up the Sandy Straits to Garys Anchorage. There wasn’t a breath of wind there but unfortunately it enabled the dreaded sand flies to fly out to the boat and Bill and I were badly bitten overnight.
The next day, Tuesday 16th, we motored up the Sandy Straights to Kingfisher resort, a favourite of ours with its yachtie friendly facilities of a pool, shower and nice café that sells delicious lunches. We stayed there for 3 days waiting for the start of the wind to take us north to our first island in the Barrier reef.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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!
The following morning we put Camomile alongside and went off to find her new tender.
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?
And guess who had to have the first go in him too!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We didn’t take any photos during the event but these are some of the damage.
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.
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.
On 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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……
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We 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 Tall ships race started at the other end of the harbour and again ended under the bridge.
To our delight and cheers the Soren Larsen won followed by the wonderful James Craig that we had visited in the Maritime museum.
Third to finish was a replica of the Endeavour that is also normally on display at the Maritime museum.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With 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.
These tree roots had washed up on the beach.
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!!
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.
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.
It all made the journey up the river very pleasant.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our position on 19th October 2012
24º 45.4 South
152º 54.6 East
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is Bill’s last blog on the Solomons.
On the 28th September it was with little regret that we left Honiara port. We headed out towards Rodrick Bay in the Florida group of islands about 28 miles to the North. Motoring until the heat of the sun struck up a sea breeze we ploughed through the biggest pod of dolphins we have ever seen. The water was thick with them. Soon the sails were unfurled and we were creaming along for 2 hours with a fresh breeze on our beam.
Approaching the bay the wind dropped as we slipped into the lee of the land under the cooling cloud cover overhead. The 33’ yacht Tomboy with Janice and Tom on board was already in the anchorage and Tom, rowing from the shore in his dinghy, helped David and Nathanial in their dugout canoe make Camomile fast to buoys fore and aft not far from the shore. Looking down into the 20 metre depth of crystal clear water I could clearly see the coral growth on the bottom and was glad not to have my anchor down there in it.
David, the son of one of the three brothers at the head of the extended village family, explained that we were welcome to use the buoys at no charge for as long as we wanted. We were also welcome to come ashore, swim, snorkel and generally roam around. We had been impressed by the wreck of a cruise ship beached on the shallow reefs close to the shore. This had apparently been holed and was sinking but managed to disembark her passengers before being beached to save her for salvage. David explained that the local chief of the next village had claimed her, after he had repelled attempts to salvage the vessel, and he now charges a fee to visit the slowly rusting hulk.
Needless to say, pilfered bits of cruise liner showed up throughout the villages in the bay. This vanity unit was being used as a work top.
John the chief of their village and the youngest of the 3 brothers was away from the village and Lillian, his wife, was in charge and could be heard on the shore haranguing the remaining two brothers, Nathanial and David even though she was about 4’6″ tall
Very soon this diminutive, doughty and eloquent lady who brought us a gift of shells and fruit visited us. She explained that they liked to welcome newcomers with what we would call a “pot luck” dinner and would we like to come ashore tomorrow evening to meet the whole family.
Even from the boat we could see that this village was tidy and well looked after but even more primitive than anything we had come across to date. This is Lillian’s kitchen which has an open fire in the corner. The fire serves two purposes, it has a large cooking pot over it for boiling vegetables but also rocks are heated in the fire which in turn are used to form an oven to roast fish or veggies (they rarely have meat) covered with old sacking and banana leaves.
Tom and Janice came on board for drinks that afternoon and we chatted about their time here. It turned out that Janice, although a vet, was running a free clinic for the local tribes and Tom was teaching various subjects to some of the local children. Their selfless generosity was humbling and makes you realize that the more people like this we have on the planet the better the place becomes.
I was embarrassed, though grateful, when Janice insisted on treating my knee injury that had recently flared up. She introduced me to something she called acupressure, a treatment manipulating pressure points, which she explained, controlled the flow of energies through the body. Decades of cynicism dropped away as the treatment started to relieve the painful symptoms but I still felt a bit of a fraud because, compared to the ailments she was seeing at the clinic, mine was trivial.
The following afternoon Sue made a large chili-con-carne with rice on Camomile and Tomboy prepared a huge pasta dish and a banana cake all of which was ferried ashore at the appointed hour.
I was bowled over by the preparations that the villagers had been making during the day. Every inch of the huge table under the palm fronded roof was covered in brightly coloured hibiscus petals and leaves.
The ladies presented us with beautiful garlands and offered us green coconuts decorated with petals and fine bamboo straws to drink the fresh coconut milk. The men had been out fishing in the lagoon, returning with clams for the chowder starter and reef fish for the main course. This along with the vegetables from their gardens and the contributions from the boats served up on hand made plates freshly woven from palm leaves made the best welcome feast we have been treated to on our travels. How extraordinary that it should also come from probably the poorest people we had yet encountered.
Everyone ate well but the star of the show as far as the kids were concerned was Janice’s popcorn, which they ate in huge volumes for starters. Some of these little girls are wearing tops that Sue had handed out that afternoon and which they were very proud of.
The woodcarvers from a village across the bay set up their stall for us to view and I spent an entertaining hour bartering a head torch, twist drills, hacksaw blades, and a few Solomon dollars for some carvings. We choose a wooden shell and a war club, not sure if we’ll get them past the Australian customs.
My knee had improved enough now to take a walk to the end of the next village so we trekked off into the bush only stopping to admire the work of a local man building his home from materials straight from the surrounding jungle, and wonder at the heaps of coral on pyres of logs being prepared to burn down into the lime dust taken by beetlenut users to intensify their hit. Hmmm.
Sue ventured further afield with Janice to visit the chief in the next village and we also received a visit on board Camomile from Ben the paramount chief of the area who wanted to show us the DVD he had of the recent festival at Roderick bay. It turned out that Lillian and the brothers had not seen this recording either so we all piled below to watch it on Janice’s PC. All thought our home really lovely. It’s amazing to think they don’t have anything like the facilities we have on board.
I noticed when we were visited by Lillian and some of the kids that they spent almost as much time bailing as they did paddling so offered to do something about it. They hauled their canoes out of the water for a couple of days to let them dry out and then I set about them making repairs to the sizable holes that had eroded their way through the wood of the aging craft. Sue discovered that Lillian had a hand controlled sewing machine and a little bit of fabric but no patterns. She spent an afternoon with her tracing patterns onto some thin card that Lillian had and cutting them out followed by instructions on how to use them. It felt good to help and it was well received by the village whom by now felt like really good friends.
We snorkelled the surrounding lagoon and among the myriad of smaller fish we spotted a grouper, as large as he looked grumpy, the first we’ve seen and some small string rays.
All this time I had been downloading GRIP files from the SSB and keeping an eye on the weather systems careening up the eastern seaboard of Australia, our next destination.
It became clearer that we should move off before the tougher November weather set in and after 12 days in this beautiful place we said our sad goodbyes and headed back off to the armpit of Honiara to check out ready for the 1,100 mile beat to the shores of the first continent we would landfall since arriving in Panama from the Caribbean.
Comment from Sue
We will be sad to leave the south Pacific after 2½ years. During that time we have visited some stunning places, stopping at many islands, and met some wonderful people from different civilisations whose generosity has been very humbling. At times I’ve been a little nervous when the boat has been approached by dug out canoes or small launches but that’s soon dispersed when faced with welcoming, happy smiling faces, particularly on the children.
Most of these people have no hope of having any thing like the sort of life styles we take for granted but do you know, they don’t seem to miss it one bit, they are so rich in their surroundings. The freedom they enjoy is so liberating and I’m not sure which one of us are the lucky ones.
Our arrival in the remote Santa Cruz group in the Solomons was on the back of a deep trough that had treated us to strong gusty squalls and kicked up a nasty short sea well beyond what could be expected from the wind strength. But the sky was the most dramatic thing I have ever seen, clouds of every size, type and colour paraded across the brightest blue backdrop; an effect of the South Pacific Convergence Zone that we had entered. After the choppy sea we were relieved to motor gently into the lee of Vanikoro island’s deep and sheltered anchorage.
Our arrival seemed to be the signal for dugouts from miles around to come and introduce themselves and find out what we had on board to trade for their local produce. The dugouts here differ from the Polynesian outrigger style by being beamy enough to sit inside, being equipped with crude downwind sails similar to the Egyptian felucca and a pole for punting through shallow reefs. They are also monohull making them less stable but this didn’t stop them from standing up to fish with bows and arrows.
Although we were unsettled by all the warnings we had received about being here, the only disturbing thing we had found so far were the blood red toothy smiles from those addicted to the locally grown narcotic betelnut. This is chewed after lime is taken for a more intense “hit”. It leaves stained and damaged teeth not to mention its more sinister carcinogenic effects.
The people though were lovely and traded fresh produce like eggs, beans and tropical fruit for the clothes, writing materials and other paraphernalia we had brought for this purpose. Some requests we could not help with; we had to explain that it was not normal for a yacht to keep roofing nails suitable for their church on board. Even when a large boat full of fierce looking men turned up wanting to know if we could help to fix their SSB set (no mobile phones here yet) they were polite and did not make us feel uncomfortable. I even gave away my last tube of Araldite epoxy glue to the local chief, he was over the moon with it!
Onwards to Ndendo where we anchored up in Graciosa Bay to check in at the town of Late, an unremarkable collection of ramshackle buildings with some shops but where the bank was unable to change any money. Sue managed to persuade a local shopkeeper to exchange a few American dollars for some Solomon dollars.
We stayed five days before continuing on to the next island. After a 40 hour passage we arrived in Santa Ana in a deluge of rain but were delighted to see another yacht in the anchorage skippered by Feri, a Swiss Turk, travelling the “wrong way” from the Med with his crew Deniz. The next couple of days the rain shrieked down on us filling our water tanks to the brim.
When it finally got dry long enough to go ashore we met Chief John who welcomed us to his village. We mounted an expedition to the other side of the island together with the Turkish contingent to inspect a “custom house”, where the bones of past chiefs were interred, and to a lake in the centre of the island which was responsible for their reliable water table supply.
The village was very tidy and there seemed to be children everywhere but their houses were made from all local materials with wonderful views through to the ocean.
This was the only form of transport from one side of the island to the other on the road cleared by the Americans during the war
We met Karen the missionary who was teaching the local people how to write down their local language then teach it to others.
We moved on with trepidation when a fair wind arrived. The brisk wind 25 knots from square astern and with the twizzle poles on our double 135% genoas drove us along all day towards the eastern end of Guadalcanal Island where we arrived shortly before 18:30 which is “lights out” around here. We anchored up alone again in a quiet bay but the holding was good first time, it was flat calm and we were both tired from an exhilarating day sail.
Waking in this jungle anchorage was a joyful experience and it wasn’t long before the local characters started to make themselves known. The canoes started coming out to the boat again but this time with stories of Prince William and Kate coming to the Solomons. We thought we had missed them but it turned out they were arriving in a couple of days time.
After spending a week in Port Vila re-provisioning, re-fuelling and a false start because of the weather we finally left on the 3rd of August. A little heavy of heart we sailed the 16 mile hop around Devil’s Point, where the trade winds kick viciously at the opposing current twice a day, and into the shelter of Port Havannah for an overnight stop and a pre-dawn start the following day to sail the 65 miles north to the island of Epi. We anchored up in Lamen Bay after an easy but long day sail. This sandy bottomed bay is a good but rolly spot but we had been here before and knew that by putting out a stern anchor we would be much more stable. We spent a couple of days chilling, snorkelling over sea turtles grazing on the sea grass below the boat that could not have been less concerned by our presence. Dugongs inhabit this bay but they are shy creatures and failed to make an appearance for us much to Sue’s disappointment.
The volcanic island of Ambrym is the next large island and will forever be remembered to us as the place, last year, where Camomile nearly succeeded in running away from us when she dragged her anchor at Ranon while we were ashore with a local man’s broken generator in pieces trying to repair it for him. The fine, light black sand simply let go and she was ¼ mile out to sea when the alarm was raised by Silver Fox, a rally boat, who wondered how we could be anchored in 200 meters of water!
We were also lucky enough to see a traditional Rom dance with the men dressed in small Namba’s, which is a penis sheath attached to their belts, and nothing else! It involves a lot of foot stamping and shuffling.
Woman aren’t allowed near the Rom site but they made an exception for the cruisers.
We sailed past to Pentecost Island stopping at the village of Batnavni. The next day we went ashore to discover a really friendly village. There was a tiny store selling a few essentials along with delicious freshly baked bread. The chief offered to show us his village, which we happily accepted.
The village contained the senior school for the whole island. Many of the children boarded because it was too far to return home each evening. Their facilities were basic to say the least.
The bunk beds were very close together
and the school kitchen consisted of an open fire with a few pots and pans containing some strange liquids bubbling away in them.
On the 10th we continued on to the southern tip of Maewo and the picturesque village of Asenvari where Chief Nelson and his tribe live. The way of life here is untouched by western influence as testified to by an out of commission hydro generating plant and a “yacht club” which was also not in operation i.e. bring your own everything and they provide a table. The Chief encourages yachts to come to his village and treats them all like VIPs. The villagers enjoy trading their fruit, veg and handicrafts for every day goods.
Nelson soon established that I knew what a generator was and suddenly a broken one appeared. After an hour or so of tweaking it was working but when I asked to test it on an appliance nothing could be found that was not already defunct, not even a light bulb. This just goes to show that if the very few modern gadgets are removed from this environment village life simply goes on as it has since time immemorial.
In the evening we enjoyed our sundowners listening to the children frolicking in the sea, naked, without a care in the world.
On the 13th we made the 16 mile passage west to another volcanic island named Ambae and anchored off the black beaches of Vanihe Bay for a couple of nights visiting the village of Lolowai.
From here and onto our favourite resort in Vanuatu, “Oyster Island” on Santo. A small but very yottie friendly place with a western style restaurant, cold beer and a lovely still “hurricane hole” anchorage. The little over water bungalows were charming, the surrounding coral is colourful and there are a number of WW2 aircraft wrecks that are interesting to snorkel. A kayak trip up the nearby river to swim in a “blue hole”, the deep limestone sink that feeds the river with fresh clean water, is a great way to spend an afternoon.
The resort was the first and only place we found a limited wifi signal north of Port Vila, and Sue was amazed by the loos!
This anchorage is about
20km from Luganville, the regional capital where we had to check in before moving north, do some shopping and sniff out some nice coffee (Sue has a talent for this type of detection). We decided that, instead of using an expensive resort taxi we would walk to the main road and thumb a lift. Most of the road traffic will stop for a hitchhiker as it is understood that you will pay 200 vatu each (about £1.50) the equivalent of the bus fare (if you can find a bus). Riding in the back of the ubiquitous pick up truck worked really well on the first day when we made the return journey in a Taxi loaded up with shopping. The second day a Toyota crew cab pick-up pulled over with four burley men in it. Sue took one look in the back and blanched. There was a very large and very dead cow in it with its severed head and guts all over the place. Apparently it was on the way to be butchered. Those of you who know her will also know that Sue is infrequently lost for words however this was one of those rare moments. The driver, perceiving the imminent loss of a fare however, promptly turfed two of the lads out of the cab and we were saved. I have rarely regretted more the absence of a camera in my hand to capture a tableau such as this.
Leaving the luxury of a resort island behind us on the 21st we headed 25 miles north to Hog Harbour and a visit to Champagne Beach, so named because the white sand is so fine that it bubbles each time a wave washes its way up the beach. A further 8 miles to the North we dropped our hook for the night in the shelter of Port Olry where we shared the anchorage with Quicksilver a yacht from Poole in Dorset and had a nice time nattering and drinking tea with Mike and Hilda, the last English boat we would see before Australia.
Next a 45 mile passage to the first of the Banks archipelago and the island of Santa Maria where we tucked ourselves into the west side of the island away from the increasing south east trade winds and chattered to the locals who were preparing for a festival in a few days time.
Sadly we did not have time to stay with them because we needed to make our way to Port Paterson on Vanua Lava to check out before our 28 day visa expired. While in Port Paterson we came across the wood built square rigged ship the Soren Larsen which was used in the filming of the Onedin line in the 70s. We had been invited aboard her for a tour the year before when we were anchored near her in Port Vila, then she was in Opua and now again here.
The following day we moved to the shelter of the west side of the island to Double Waterfall Bay and the village of Chief Kerely, an urbane, educated and intelligent man. He greeted us warmly and explained that we were free to anchor, swim, snorkel and generally were to make ourselves at home. If we were bothered by too many visitors in canoes then just ask them to come another time and that he preferred that any spare goods we had were traded for something useful to us rather than just given away. We felt well at ease anchored in the bay with the distant roar of the twin waterfalls in the background.
Later that evening who should arrive at the anchorage but the Soren Larsen. The next day the village set about organising custom dancing, water music and all the other things that were normally done for them. This led to a great day’s entertainment ashore with the passengers and was really capped off when we were invited aboard the square-rigger for a pasta supper.
By about this time our laundry bags were bulging so we needed to find plentiful fresh water to have a washing day. We moved to Single Waterfall Bay an uninhabited bay just a few miles up the coast and took our washing, our shampoo our shower gel and a picnic lunch to the base of the waterfall and spent the afternoon getting clean. Best washday ever!
20 miles north Ureparapara was the last of the Banks islands we visited and is an extinct volcano with a flooded caldera forming it’s anchorage. It is a special thing to drop the hook knowing that at one time this bay was a vast version of Tanna’s inferno.
The Torres islands are the most northerly islands of Vanuatu and about 50 miles down wind of Ureparapara. We headed to Hayter Bay on Tegua. A quintessential tropical beach, palm fringed, white sand, jungle backdrop and multicoloured coral reefs under the softly lapping crystal clear water. Best of all, uninhabited so we had it all to ourselves until the following morning when our friends on the Soren Larsen hoved into the bay and dropped their anchor.
That evening, the 30th, we left Hayter bay and Vanuatu to head ever further north to the Solomon islands.