Thursday, 13 August 2015

One of Those Days!

Along the Burnett River, Bundaberg
Our anchorage at Big Woody Island (Tooliewah) off Fraser Island is just thirteen miles away.  It's warm and sunny and the water of Hervey Bay is calm, aquamarine.  We were surprised to see a dugong about twenty miles out although this area is known for them.

The day started in the Burnett River, with very calm conditions after a blustery 25-30 knot day yesterday until around 10pm, when a cold front came through.  There was enough rain to wash down the boat, nice.  We slept well last night and this morning decided today is the day to leave for Fraser Island.  There will be some swell but the wind direction will suit our southeasterly course.

Just as we're coming in to the fuel dock at Bundaberg Port Marina, the winds pick up again from 5 to 15 knots.  Once out in the bay it looks like we could have a brisk sail flying just the yankee this morning.

At 10am the Bureau of Meteorology cancelled the strong wind warning.  All is well when I decide to make an early lunch of fried rice. We're on a nice even keel.  As luck would have it, or not, when I have everything out on the bench and in the midst of slicing and dicing, the wind picks up to 25 knots, peaking at 30.  We are smashing into waves at six knots, salt spray flying the length of the boat.

Having only two arms and two hands, and a couple of legs, I strapped myself in the galley and adjusted my ambitions and chopping skills to meet the heel of the boat.  A rice-strewn galley and two decent sized bowls of fried rice later I dragged myself into the cockpit, only to witness at that moment a dramatic decrease in wind strength.  Talk about a bad sense of timing!  At least the eating position is a lot more vertical than the cooking position.  We're still making some headway and life is good again.

We use our 3 water tanks in rotation.  I filled the two empty ones at the fuel dock earlier so I'll switch over to the biggest aft tank now.  I filled it back in Rosslyn Bay and we've had it in reserve.  Huh?  There must be a lot of air in the pipes, it's taking a while for the water to flow freely.  Robert takes a look and we figure out we've drained the aft tank over the course of the past two weeks.  The valve has not been completely closed and the water slowly drained into the tank in use.

We've been assuming we've improved our efforts at conserving water because we've only just emptied the smaller forward tank.  That plus the supreme confidence we left Bundaberg with 3 full tanks, well, I'm remembering now what AssUMe means.  Running out of one of the three essentials, fuel, food, or water would severely restrict our movements.  Now we will really need to watch the water usage until the next opportunity to refill.

We're sailing along nicely after lunch.  It's time for a hot drink.  What is up with this gas jet?  It's been playing up a bit lately.  It won't work at all now.  I keep the stovetop spotlessly clean and the gas jet seems clean.  We think we need to replace the regulator.  I give up.  I'll sit in the sun and drink water.  But I won't let this thing beat me.  A bit of poking at the jet, a wipe, a readjustment and hey presto, all jets firing.  I must remember to apologise to the helpful brother-in-law who suggested cleaning the outlet jet.

I'll take something out of the freezer for dinner.  Those couple of fish fillets will be great for fish cakes.  What the heck?  This fish is almost defrosted and I thought the freezer had been working so well.  There's no knowing for how long, but the switch has been set at fridge instead of freezer.  Something must have bumped the switch from 4 to 2.  The contents are still frozen enough that we won't loose all the frozen food we need until the next opportunity to provision.  I dare not look at anything else.  I'm afraid it's not my day.

Around 2pm the wind completely dies, just like that!  From too much to nothing. We'd ideally like to anchor before dark.  Now we're motoring.  It's the 13th of the month.  It's a Thursday.  I'm a Thursday's Child with a long way to go.  At least it's a warm, sunny afternoon.  Life is indeed good, but I gotta say...  It's been just one of those days!


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Bundaberg on The Burnett River

Early morning Town Reach Bundaberg on the Burnett River
One of the best things about having a boat is that we can get to places other people can't easily go.  It's often a challenge, there's always a reward.

Sights along the way
The guide books can't be trusted.  Even current editions can be wildly optomistic.  Markers along the way can disappear; either they've been hit by something or dislodged due to cyclonic wind and waves.  Shoals come and go and nothing changes the characteristics of a river like a flood.

Nice new boardwalk along the riverbank

Poor Bundaberg has suffered two devastating floods, 2011 and 2013.  We expect that the river has changed but we don't know to what extent.  Our guide book is two editions out of date so we do some checking online and we find a website confirming there is indeed a fuel dock up the Burnett River in Bundaberg.  We could refuel at the Port Marina but we'd like to wind our way the ten miles upriver to spend a day or two in the town itself and get our fuel while there.

We need to be constantly vigilant, carefully following navigation markers.

We're following the chart plotter at the helm, plus the paper chart, using binoculars to pinpoint navigation markers and looking for floating debris which is always a possibility.  It's very shallow for much of the river up this far.  At one point we register only eight feet and although it's not the top of the tide, we still have a few hours before dead low.

Along the way we pass obvious signs of the floods; the occasional washed up boat, wrecked docks, dead trees, eroded riverbanks and destroyed retaining walls.  There are also signs of recovery and some large new homes alongside tired old ones. Once we've anchored at Town Reach we see a great new boardwalk with sturdy new docks.  No sign of the fuel dock or the Midtown Marina.  No, it was all washed away in the last flood.  There are no services for boats at the town end of the river, apart from the public dock.
  
Sugar cane design. Representing Bundaberg's past and present. 

It's Robert's birthday.  He's had a look through the online reviews of local restaurants and decided on Indulge Bistro Cafe for "linner"; late lunch/early dinner.  It turns out we are in luck.  Maybe I've been on the boat too long but I've fallen in love with this place.  From the wildly botanical wallpaper to the exciting array of unique desserts presented in the case, they are really speaking my language!  Even the menu itself is written like an enticing, beguiling guide to local produce.  I can't get enough of this.  It might be Robert's birthday but I'm having all the treats.

St Andrew's Seventh Day Adventist Church foundation stone laid 1931

Bundaberg is a beautiful city to walk around because so much of it's history has been preserved in its architecture.  If the grandeur of the city's churches are an indication of Bundagerg's significance as a rural centre then there's no denying sugar has historically been good to the region.  In fact Bundaberg Sugar is the largest sugar grower in Australia and Bundaberg is of course home to the famous Bundaberg Rum.  We past the distillary and the sugar processing mill on the river just a short distance from town.
 

 
Charming Bundaberg Railway Station


We've enjoyed our time in this charming rural city, population around 100,000.  Strong winds are forecast for the next couple of days.  We need to move on towards Fraser Island but first we'll anchor overnight close to the mouth, keeping an eye on weather conditions, and fuel up in the morning at the Port.

This boat isn't going anywhere in the 30 knot winds.  She's well-anchored and stuck in the mud with her back to the mangroves.  

Monday, 10 August 2015

Breakfast at Pancake Creek

A catamaran at Pancake Creek
We hadn't planned to spend a week at Pancake Creek but because we were already delayed, missing some important dates, and we liked it so much we decided we may as well stay and enjoy the experience.

This is one of those special places you can only get to by boat.  The few campers we met on the beach had carried everything up the creek by tinny.  The amphibious LARC tours operate out of 1770, quite a distance away, and bring tourists up to the lighthouse we can see from our anchorage.

It's a well-marked channel through the sandy shoals and we've anchored well into the creek in about 20 feet at high tide. The water is beautifully clean and clear.  We can see flathead, stingrays, sharks and crabs easily against the sandy bottom.  There are turtles, a dolphin and a dugong in the anchorage.  We've spent our time exploring, walking to the Bustard Head Lighthouse and fishing each day.  At Aircraft Beach we saw four or five sharks, about 6 feet in length,  just behind the beach break in very shallow water.

Each evening we're awed by the magnificent sunsets, made even more intense by the smoke of bushfires that have been burning for days in the National Park a few miles away.  Rarely do we see the occupants of the boats that come and go.  The weather has been cold so we can only assume they are resting, staying warm below decks, before sailing north again to the Whitsundays.  They are missing something special right under their noses.  It's so relaxing here but eventually we need to move south and head south for Bundaberg.
Leaf and charcoal dust creates a landscape on the sand.


Monday, 3 August 2015

Rosslyn Bay to Pancake Creek via The Narrows

It's an easy exit from the marina, in darkness but with no wind to speak of.  The waters all around Yeppoon are shallow (about 30 feet) for miles and miles and a few boats with deeper drafts are anchored just outside the marina at Rosslyn Bay.  Sunrise won't be for another three hours.

First light in a very dim fog.
Today will be a motorboat ride.  We're immediately steaming into a thick fog, a real pea souper.  We don't see fog like this very often when we're sailing.  If we want to make it through The Narrows today we'll need to motor at around 5 knots to time our entry and exit in line with the tides.  The Narrows is shallow, shoaly and of course the current can either help or hinder.


Fog is wet!  Water droplets are raining down from the spreaders and rigging.  All the lines are dripping wet and soon so are we.  I've put an old canvas hatch cover over Daisie and we snuggle close.  We're feeling the cold despite Robert and I wearing our wet weather gear.

Our visibility is down to one boat length.  With one eye on the radar we sound the air horn to alert any vessel that is close by.  There's one brief moment of clarity around 6:00am with the first hint of sunrise.  Then we enter another wall of dense dark fog.  We're still in good time but we won't be able to enter and navigate The Narrows in these conditions.

The Captain thinks otherwise!  We're keeping a constant look out for anything in our path, me on the foredeck and Robert at the helm.  Just at the most opportune time the fog lifts.  We're picking up the markers now by sight as we enter The Narrows.


There are a couple of sailboats motoring well behind us and we can see some others anchored along the way, probably waiting for the tide to turn in the other direction.  Most of the boats we see are powerboats heading north.  As we get closer to Gladstone Harbour we see just one or two sailboats motoring north.  They may have to anchor along The Narrows and complete their passage in two days if the current runs against them.

Our timing is actually perfect today, in line with tides and currents. We had a 3 knot current with us going in and only a slight adverse current going out.  It is very shallow and there's very little room to move, not much room for error.  We've maintained the speed needed to get through to Gladstone Harbour around midday.  We didn't get breakfast because we needed all eyes on deck so I'm preparing a salad for lunch while we are still on an even keel.  Robert has some prawns he picked up yesterday at the seafood shop over near the fuel dock.


I'm kind of excited to enter Gladstone Harbour.  I find the industrial landscape very interesting and photogenic.

While the couple of sailboats following us through The Narrows have peeled off to anchor, we carry on towards Pancake Creek.  We don't want to waste the favourable wind (NE) and current we have going for us this afternoon.

As we leave the busy part of Gladstone Harbour behind, we have 12 kts of wind.  We hoist the sails, turn off the engine and we are making 9.7 kts speed over ground.  Our maximum hull speed is 8 kts, so this is good.  As the wind picks up to 17 kts we peak at the magic 10.1 kts SOG with 4 kts of current assisting us.  Woohoo!  We might just make it to Pancake Creek before dark.


Sunday, 2 August 2015

Courtesy Car Goes A Long Way

When we make land we always have a long list of gotta dos; re-provisioning, laundry, buying boat stuff, etc.  Marinas are typically far from town, supermarkets, etc. and rarely is there a good bus service.  The Kepple Bay Marina at Rosslyn Bay takes our award for the best we've visited.

Their courtesy car goes a long way to making the cruising life a lot easier when on land. Thanks Kepple Bay Marina, you're a smart and super-friendly business.  We can feel the love!

The Cruising Life

We couldn't have timed our arrival in Rosslyn Bay yesterday any better.  Boats are arriving in the Brisbane to Kepple Tropical Race and the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron's Kepple Cruise Rally.  We've found some of our RQ friends here.  The Kepple Bay Marina does a great job hosting the party.  We're enjoyed the live music although we retired early, around 9pm, cruisers' midnight.

Today has been non-stop getting all our jobs completed before we take off in the morning. We made an early dash for the supermarket, took BR over to the fuel dock to fill our 3 tanks, topped up our 3 water tanks, etc. etc.   Daisie even got her shampoo and trim in the cockpit.  Good girl, she never complains about my lack of dog grooming skills.

I've also given the decks of Bristol Rose a good scrub and put a piece of beef and vegies in the oven.  Robert needs to run to make the 5:15pm bus into Yeppoon to pick up some wine and beer from the bottle shop.  It's been a dry ship these past couple of weeks and I fear the Captain may himself mutiny if he can't have a nice red with his dinner.

The alarm is set for 3am.  Time to get some sleep.  Ahh, the Cruising Life!

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Port Clinton to Rosslyn Bay

Wake me when it's over.

This morning we had coffee at 5:30am and motor sailed out through the Port Clinton bar shortly after.  The blue moon is setting on one side of the bay and the sun is rising on the other.  What a sight!

Soon we're sailing close hauled for Cape Manifold with the wind from the east and a knot of current against us.  From Cape Manifold we set our course due south for Rosslyn Bay which puts the wind on our beam.  Our boat speed is 7-8 knots in 15 knots of easterly wind.  A ketch loves to sail on a beam reach and it feels good.

It's all fun until the wind turns southerly.  Now we're heading for New Zealand.  Noooo!  At this rate it will be a late afternoon or perhaps an evening arrival at Rosslyn Bay.

We will spend a couple of nights at the Kepple Bay Marina.  We need to do laundry, dispose of trash, take on fuel and water, re-stock the food lockers. We will be busy.  Daisie needs a bath and she probably thinks we stink too for dragging her on this watery ride.  She'd like a nice patch of dirt right now.

It's a low low tide when we reach the marina.  It's a typically narrow entrance however there are few marinas we have entered wondering whether there is enough water under our keel.  One boat ahead of us turned back out exclaiming "it's shallow".  It's late afternoon, there's no wind.  We see 6 feet on our depth sounder at the entrance.  Our draft is almost 1.5m (5 feet) so we take it slowly knowing it's soft mud/sand on the bottom.  The other boat has followed us in, encouraged by our bravado and offering us up as a sacrifice.   In our slip on the blue dock we are resting on the bottom, 4.5 feet!  It makes tying up easy!  We're happy.  Robert goes to check us in and I go straight to the laundry and walk Daisie.  We have a busy day tomorrow.


Friday, 31 July 2015

Island Head Creek to Port Clinton Once in a Blue Moon

Approaching Port Clinton

This morning the winds are below 10 knots at Island Head Creek.  They will be higher outside and there will still be swell that's whipped up over the past few days.  We've been here five days, it's a good day to leave.

As expected it's a bumpy ride, wind from the southeast, in our face, and we're motoring.  It could always be worse so there's no complaining.

The calmness of the Port Clinton anchorage is a welcome relief this afternoon.  I've made an easy lunch of fried rice which we enjoy sitting in the sun in the cockpit.  We can hear the turtles breathing on the surface close by.

Tonight we watch the blue moon rise over the mangroves in a calm, peaceful anchorage.  A blue moon happens when two full moons occur in one month.  It's positively blissful.