The Whitsundays!!!!

Well I’ve been a bit slack in updating everyone, but we have reached a major milestone and have made it to the Whitsunday Islands!!! I’m so proud of our family travelling up here together, and that we have had the tenacity, teamwork and spirit of adventure to make it happen! We have had so many mini adventures, let me tell you about a few.

So when I last left you we were waiting out some weather in Island Head Creek. We left there in the company of Blue Bayou another family boat we have been travelling with, and bashed into some crazy seas on our way to the yachting mecca that is on middle percy island.

I just couldn't get a good picture this is Blue Bayou bashing out of Island Head Creek in big waves on a lee shore about 10m from some crazy rocks, it was a mad ride for half an hour and looked very scary from our boat!

I just couldn’t get a good picture this is Blue Bayou bashing out of Island Head Creek in big waves on a lee shore about 10m from some crazy rocks, it was a mad ride for half an hour and looked very scary from our boat!

We arrived in Middle Percy (about 60km offshore near Mackay) which has a huge A-Frame which yachties leave momentos attached to and there are thousands and thousands. Not long after we entered the anchorage the locals came down to invite us to a goat stew cooked over an open fire. Just bring some veges to contribute, so goat is actually quite good and we met some nice people including most of the residents of the tiny island. When we got back to our dinghy it was swamped and FULL of water, after bailing it we rowed it back to the boat just in case our petrol had water in it (it didn’t) but we couldn’t tell it was dark. During this time I had all the phones in a bag around my neck, the beach had quite a good surf and I was lucky none of them got wet, but after escaping total ruin I never took the phones back in the dinghy there, and so no photos!

In the morning we decided we would go for a walk (middle percy anchorage is exposed and very very rolly so not pleasant spending time on your boat at anchor). We started following a track and nearly 5km of uphill walking later we made it to the Islands major homestead (we thought it said 2.5km not 2.5 miles!!!), the track was marked with funny quotes and mementos and there were millions of blue tiger butterflies to walk through, it reminded me of the butterfly room at Melbourne Zoo.  The kids invited themselves into the homestead so they could look at the baby chickens and we visited with the owners being treated to a tour, some of the islands history, lovely lime and honey drink and homemade bread. It was amazing how they lived, quite self sufficient with fruit and veges, chooks and goats, its an 8hr boat ride in a trawler to get to Serena for supplies which they make every 6 weeks. We then walked over the hill to another of the residents house so we could visit with the tame baby goat there. Then after another walk with quite a steep descent we arrived back at the beach to find that Blue Bayou had arrived! We made plans to continue on and left the next morning for Scawfell Island, one of the most southern Islands in the Whitsunday group, we had a great motorsail there.

Arriving Scawfell Island

Arriving Scawfell Island

We only stopped there the night and didn’t get off the boat but it was a rocky, lush island and quite imposing, on arriving to it we had a group of dolphins bow ride and do tricks with us for about half an hour, it was a magical welcoming to the Whitsunday Islands and better than any seaworld show!

The next day we sailed to Lindeman Island (which has a closed resort on it) we covered 110miles over the 2 days in our eagerness to make it north. This marked the last of our full day passages, it had been a month of travelling a 12h day having 1 or 2 days off and then another 12h day, this means constantly getting ready for passages, packing and unpacking the boat and although our trip up has been amazing we were ready to stop for a little bit and slow down.

Sailing to Lindeman Island, stunning day, islands everywhere!

Sailing to Lindeman Island, stunning day, islands everywhere!

Yeah!  We made it!

Yeah! We made it!

After some beach time and some swimming, we hauled anchor and sailed to Hamilton Island, we anchored by the airport, dinghyed into the beach and hauled 5 children 2km up an insanely steep hill down to the road and caught the free shuttle bus into the resort, a couple of drinks by the pool then we headed down to the shops to get the hugest, bestest burgers we have ever seen (they were the size of a side plate and packed full), gorging ourselves, we then caught the bus back, and walked the crazy hill in the dark again with 5 children, carried the dinghy 100m down to the water (tide had gone out!) motored over the coral in the pitch black, climbed up onto the boat and tucked into our beds. Now who ever said we aren’t adventurous! (you may be able to tell from this story but this is not really the paying way to enter Hamilton Island).

It was then time to head to Airlie, a supply run was desperately needed, especially for Blue Bayou.

Lego on the deck anyone, arriving Airlie Beach township in the background.

Lego on the deck anyone, arriving Airlie Beach township in the background.

We tucked into the Marina for a week, visited the Lagoon multiple times, stocked up on groceries, Jas did a two day mission down to the Gold Coast to get the car. Then headed back out for a few more days in the islands.

After a beaut bbq and raft up with Blue Bayou, Jas as usual, had too much to drink and so we killed the hangover with some snorkelling off Bali Hai (even Holly is snorkelling now). A bumpy dinghy ride back to the boat, a pie and an afternoon nap. Life is good!

The kids live on a boat, spend all day building lego boats and taking rides to the Marina, Charlies, have sails, rudders, keels, cabins, stays, anchors, winches you name it!

The kids live on a boat, spend all day building lego boats and taking rides to the Marina, Charlies, have sails, rudders, keels, cabins, stays, anchors, winches you name it!

I have got a job here in the Whitsundays working as a midwife and Jason is going to do some marine courses here. So we planning on staying and exploring the Islands here for the next year before moving on. The kids have been enrolled in school for a bit and we will be topping up the kitty before leaving again.

One more sunset, Stonehaven anchorage.

One more sunset, Stonehaven anchorage.

Advertisements

Pancake Creek and Great Keppel Island

Well I’m writing on some scratchy internet, miles from anywhere at a creek called “Island Head Creek” about 120km north of Yeppoon.

After waiting out a big blow at Pancake Creek spending the day hunkering down and watching movies, we were more than ready for a day of exploring. A big beach walk/rock climb led us to some beautiful beaches again with water so clear you could sit on the dinghy and just watch the fish.

We did the walk to the lighthouse and none of the kids complained even one little bit – see what a day cooped up on a 37ft yacht with four other people will do for the attitude!!!

Bustard Head Lighthouse - just to prove we did get to the top.

Bustard Head Lighthouse – just to prove we did get to the top.

And yep walked all the way there with this crew!

And yep walked all the way there with this crew!

Beach at Pancake Creek

Beach at Pancake Creek

Back to the boat after we carry the dinghy out 300m as we were caught by the low tide!

Back to the boat after we carry the dinghy out 300m as we were caught by the low tide!

Our plan was to sail down the outside of the coast to Cape Capricorn but once we left we were making great time and so continued on for an over 70mile sail to Great Keppel Island, we like to call the rolly isles! After a night of the rolly rollies we headed into the marina for fathers day lunch and a grocery run!

Picked up and taken out for a fantastic dinner by our friends Frank and Yvonne, we were treated like royals (and also the dog) and had an awesome night, topped up by a drop off of freshly cooked banana chocolate muffins in the morning, they were yummo, couldn’t have asked for any better hospitality!

With the wind a bit more settled and the promise of a beach bbq with Blue Bayou who we met at Lady Musgrave we headed back out to Great Keppel, with the help of a stern anchor and some anchorage hopping we managed two nights quite comfortably,

Sunset Great Keppel Island

Sunset Great Keppel Island

Enough time to hit the beach bar and roast some marshmallows on the beach.

Beach fire at Great Keppel

Beach fire at Great Keppel

We left Great Keppel yesterday and sailed 55+ miles in some very active seas (but it only cost us about $4 in diesel) to where we are now and again its blowing and raining and the day has been spent repairing bits and bobs, watching movies, covering the boat in lego. Off now for a couple sundowners and a curry with the neighbouring boat. Sunday or Monday we are going to make a run for Duke or Percy Islands. Then its only just over 100miles to Airlie Beach!

Settling In…

This week has been the epitome of the quintessential cruising life.

It started with errands in Bundaberg, motor spares, groceries, fishing tackle.

Bundaberg was a really nice small town and reminded me a bit of Invercargill (yes except the obvious temperature difference).

Anchored down town Bundaberg.

Anchored down town Bundaberg.

Since the weather was reported to be settled for the next few days we decided to sail out to Lady Musgrave Island, the 2nd most southern island of the great barrier reef (yay finally there). Its an unusual anchorage as there’s this little island (called a cay) and then this big reef that extends out in a circle around it with an entrance, so you sail through the reef entrance and then you are in a lagoon with the open ocean all around you, its pretty cool!

The laundry set up on Orion, washing machine, generator to make it go, wringer for wringing and fresh water for rinsing, works really well.

The laundry set up on Orion, washing machine, generator to make it go, wringer for wringing and fresh water for rinsing, works really well.

I try to make all meals before we go in case of seasickness!

I try to make all meals before we go in case of seasickness!

So we left 4am for a 50mile sail to Lady Musgrave (LM from here on), needing to get there in the daylight to navigate the entrance and the coral in the lagoon. Well we had a kickass sail all the way averaging 6knots, was an awesome day, pulled into the reef about 1.30pm and put the anchor down. Pure bliss!! We chucked the dinghy in and some snorkelling gear and headed for the beach, where we snorkelled and kayaked away the afternoon!

Trucking along under sail

Trucking along under sail

Still a bit chilly but we were well prepared

Still a bit chilly but we were well prepared

The crew practising steering the boat under sail

The crew practising steering the boat under sail

Doesn't look like he misses school that much does it?

Doesn’t look like he misses school that much does it?

I can only describe LM as magic, sitting on the beach watching whales frolick, turtles crusing past and popping their heads up, schools of fish leaping out of the water a metre off the beach, beautiful coral, loads of reef fish and water so clear you could see the bottom over 10m down!

We met a couple of other cruisers with kids as well and joined them for a few beach drinkies and a day of doing…. just nothing. Pictures don’t do the place justice but I’ll show you a few…

Soon after arriving.

Soon after arriving.

The island in the background.

The island in the background.

Sunset.

Sunset.

Charlie's new screen saver!

Charlie’s new screen saver!

New friends at the beach.

New friends at the beach.

We could have stayed for ever, but with a strong wind warning for thursday, we decided to head back to the mainland, we didn’t want our memories of that magical paradise ruined by horrible weather and an anchor dragging in a lagoon filled with coral bommies and a scary reef, so with another good forecast we sailed for Pancake creek just south of Gladstone to wait out the wind.

In Bundaberg we bought a new lure and some line recommended by the serious fishermen we know, half way back we remembered it and put it out, within a couple of hours I was woken by the call “fish on!” and Jas reeled in this good sized Big Eye Tuna

Yes I know, I'm not happy about the beard either.

Yes I know, I’m not happy about the beard either.

Tuna anyone!

Tuna anyone!

We weren’t sure about our filleting abilities but after watching a you-tube video I think we did really well, sashimi for dinner last night, grilled tuna tonight, yummy!!!

The plan is now a couple of days here in pancake creek to check out the beaches and perhaps if we can bribe our 5 year old a walk to the lighthouse. Then a trip either, up the outside of the coast or up the inside of Curtis island (we haven’t decided yet), and to the Keppel islands, with a stop in Yeppoon for some provisioning!

We haven’t had any more dramas (hopefully I’m not punished for saying it) but funny when we refuelled in Bundaberg Jas was getting some diesel additive out and what was tucked up there with all the oily things??? A spare belt, the correct size we both just shook our heads, but now we have 3 as we picked up a couple in Bundy, and we know where they are… Boats!!

North to Bundaberg

Well Tin Can Bay turned out to be a lovely spot to spend a few days, lovely walk down by the water, shop, garage, church, bank, post office what more do you need…

Lovely walk down by the water, became a daily thing.

Lovely walk down by the water, became a daily thing.

image

At low tide a few crabs became involuntary temporary pets!

At low tide a few crabs became involuntary temporary pets!

After recovering and cleaning up in Tin Can Bay for a few days and waiting out a couple of gusty more we did a short 4 hour sail up to Garry’s anchorage, this is a terrific spot and we enjoyed the first sit on the beach, share a beer and watch the kids play, a sign that it must be getting warmer!

Leaving Garry's anchorage in the morning.

Leaving Garry’s anchorage in the morning.

So when we had the mechanic down to the boat in Tin Can Bay we got him to have a look over other parts of our motor to see if there were any red flags before we got under-way again. He said one of the belts on our motor was quite worn, we tried to replace it with our “spare” which turned out to be the wrong size (one size too small), he tensioned it and suggested we get a new one. We went to the chandlery, they didn’t have one, to the garage they had some, the same size we already had and one a bit too big but out of the size we needed of course! Not really any other options for shops in Tin Can Bay so we decided to keep fingers crossed and get one in Bundaberg a few days away…

Well we must have needed our toes crossed as well as 5 minutes out of Garry’s anchorage the engine alarm went off – temperature was 230, supposed to be about 180, not good, emergency shut off and a quick anchor down in the middle of the channel (lucky its 6am and no other boats out). Open up the engine room, and yep, you guessed it, a broken belt! Hmmm, a few choice words.

Could we stretch the too short belt to fit???? Not a chance… then Jas had bright idea of grinding a bit off the alternator bracket and moving the alternator over so that the belt would maybe fit, worth a try right? So at 6am out comes the generator and the grinder and Jas gets to work, and guess what, a win, it worked! New belt in place and off we go, reasoning the closer we get to Hervey Bay the closer the dinghy ride might be into town if the belt breaks again.

But it didn’t break, the engine hummed away nicely and we motored through the rest of the sandy straights to “Big Woody Island” (yes chuckle chuckle, funny name). More like big rocky island, a trip the beach and some washing later and we prepared for the run up to bundaberg.

Not a lot of wind out here today.

Not a lot of wind out here today.

In contrast to our earlier sea passage the sea, was flat and calm, and although we had sails up in good faith, no wind came to fill them and it was a 50nm motor to Bundy.

Training the crew to take a watch.

Training the crew to take a watch.

So after a few “hold your breath spots” at low tide traversing the Burnett river we have arrived the the town of Bundaberg, where engine parts await us at the post office and there are a few things to stock up on. None of us have been here before so hoping to spend a couple of days checking out town before pushing further north.

Never leave on a friday…

There is a sailing superstition about departing on fridays being bad luck….’

We had a good run into Mooloolaba and anchored up at their very flat city anchorage and hit the town, visiting parks, stocking up on groceries and heading out to our favourite Indian for an all you can eat indian buffet, seriously yum and lucky it was a 2.5km walk each way to the dinghy and back so we could walk it all off.

We knew that the next part of the coast was one of the harder passages planned on this trip up to the whitsundays, there are two options from Mooloolaba, a 55 mile run up to the wide bay bar and then cross that and motor up the inside of Fraser Island through to Hervey Bay or to sail about 180 miles around the top of Fraser Island into Bundaberg all in the open sea. We have crossed the bar before and that was the plan again, we watched the weather very carefully, it was forecast light 10-15 knots south to southeasterly for friday, good conditions for sailing up the coast with the wind behind us and calm for crossing the bar which is notorious and a very dangerous stretch of water in the wrong conditions. To cross the bar the optimum time is 2 hours before high tide, which for friday was around 10.30am. The next week of weather forecast said the wind was going to turn to the north, for a whole week, which meant leaving any later was really out of the question unless we wanted to beat into it or wait in mooloolaba another week. So we spent a day getting ready and left mooloolaba at just after 1am figuring we have a 10hr sail minimum in order to get to the bar near 10.30am for a safe crossing.

We sailed out of mooloolaba and it wasn’t windy but the sea was running quite a big swell and was very confused which makes for a very uncomfortable sea state, so we knew an hour out we were going to be sick! All of us were throwing up despite meds before leaving but we were making ok time and reasoned it would only be a 10-12hrs before we were in calm water again and we would cope until then….

About 30 miles (or 6 hours) out of Mooloolaba we were motor-sailing as the wind was fickle and it was squally meaning that every couple of hours the wind would pick up and dump some rain on us and then the squall would pass and we be back in light winds again. Then all of a sudden the motor started having trouble maintaining its revs and didn’t sound good, Jas and I were talking about it and had decided to turn it off, just as Jas was reaching for the kill switch the motor stopped all by itself, not good at all…

Jas went down below to check it out and low and behold the bilge (the bottom of the hull of the boat under the floor) was full of all our diesel, for some reason the motor had dumped it all out and we had run out of fuel, not a good situation, now we always go out pretty prepared and so had another 40l in cans on the deck so we weren’t out of diesel and that was more than enough to motor where we needed to go, but its no good putting that in if the motor is going to spew it all back out again is it??

Now you might reason that this is a sailboat and we don’t need a motor necessarily and you would be right, in any other place in any other circumstance we would not, except to cross the wide bay bar, there is no way in hell we considered it safe to sail across that with breaking waves off to both sides, if you sail across and the wind dies out halfway across you are at the mercy of the sea, you need the motor as backup at the least. We were not prepared to cross it under sail alone.

So we reasoned that with 40l of fuel we could continue to sail and pull into an anchorage behind double island point about 9 miles from the bar and Jas could put some of the diesel in the tank, try to rebleed the motor, change all the filters as they had sucked up the shit on the bottom of the fuel tank and even though the motor was spewing out diesel for an unknown reason it would take a bit of time to spew out 40l and should give us a couple of hours of motoring to get across the bar. However in doing this we would miss the tides for the bar, we reasoned perhaps we could just wait overnight at double-island point if we could get the motor going perhaps.

So thats what we did, we stayed out there and sailed ourselves to double island point, which is quite exposed in a southeasterly wind, but fair holding although very uncomfortable with the wind and swell combination meaning we were anchored broadside to the swell, anyone who has been on a boat before knows this is not very nice, we contemplated putting a stern anchor out to help with this if we needed to stay overnight but thought we would have a look at the motor first.

So poor Jas got down into the engine room with the boat rocking and rolling and stinking like diesel and tried and tried to rebleed the engine and to find the source of the leak, its a difficult engine to rebeed at the best of times and in those conditions it was proving impossible, we had no idea what was causing the leak but there was diesel everywhere! We then realised we were stuck no matter what we did we weren’t going to get the motor going again without help and whatever plan we made we were going to need a tow into harbour.  It was about 2.30pm by this point and so we made a phone call for some help to organise a tow across the bar.

They were great from the word go, they organised the coastguard from Tin Can Bay to come out and tow us in, volunteers that give their time to help people like us in a tricky situation, so they left about 3.30pm to come out and meet us, we hauled anchor and started sailing towards the bar. At about 4.30pm we met them a couple miles out from the bar and they told us that the bar was terrible that they had crossed 3m standing waves coming out and that now they were stuck out at sea too as it wasn’t safe even for them to head back across it, we discussed a few options and decided that we would all wait for the next 2 hours before high tide for a bar crossing (about 9/10pm at night) and attempt a crossing then with us in tow; so we sailed out to sea and hove to, for non sailors this a sail arrangement you put the boat in which stops you moving (well you drift very very slowly) and is reasonably comfortable at sea, we were still all sick and getting fatigued by this point so we had a couple of hours sleep while waiting. Of course it rained and so we were all wet, no-one wanted to be inside the boat as the sea-state was pretty rough and the inside stunk like diesel, a recipe to just make us even sicker, so we all huddled in the cockpit in the rain. Jas took a nasty knock to the head when it and the boom collided and spirits were quite low at this point as you can imagine. To top it all off the dog took a shit in the cockpit as of course we wouldn’t let her go forward. I have to stress that it was not windy only about 10-15knots, but even the coastguard was surprised by how rough the sea was given the weather forecast, little did we know but they were pretty sick on their boat also.

Just after 8pm they threw us a tow-line and we started to be towed back towards the bar, (we were a few miles away so it took us a while to get back to the bar) we were all very nervous about crossing it from their description of it earlier and ready to pull out at anytime if we needed to, however it shows how important getting the tide timing right is and we had a very uneventful bar crossing, it was defiently rougher out at sea than coming over the bar. What a relief to get into flat water!!! 24 hrs after we left we were into Tin Can Bay, tied up at the wharf and heading to bed.

On saturday morning we got a tow to the marina, we cannot stress enough the friendly helpfulness of all the people we have met at Tin Can Bay, what a pleasure to be in a small town where people are genuine and really want to help. Everyone has been fantastic, a mechanic even came down to the boat on saturday afternoon and discovered our problem was a failed fuel pressure switch, nothing we could have done in preparing for our trip could have forseen that happening, a $12 part had caused all that drama, if it had failed on any other part of our trip it would have not been so bad, but to fail on approach to the bar was the worse place possible, anywhere else on the coast we could have sailed right up to the harbour entrance and have had a short tow in.

We are having 3-4 days here in the marina to recover from that and clean up the boat, before heading up into hervey bay, we have checked over the motor and are pretty happy that it will be ok now, but have stocked up with a few spare fuel pressure switches! You can be sure now for the rest of our trip we won’t be departing on any fridays…

First few days out

I’ve had a couple of minor panic attacks about where my work phone is and heard phantom text message beeps here and there, I think it will take a while to come down off high alert….

Packed up all ready to leave the dock.

Packed up all ready to leave the dock. Day 1.

So far so good, smooth run the first day up to lower Moreton Bay, a quick stop in Dunwich, we didn’t get off the boat and then an early morning run for the Brisbane River.

Beautiful day and I think we got the tides right;

Watching the container ships being loaded as passing the port of Brisbane

Watching the container ships being loaded as passing the port of Brisbane.

august 18 2015 145

First bridge, heaps of clearance but still nerve-wracking!

Coming under the story bridge - Brisbane

And again – under the historic Story bridge, bit less clearance, but was all good.

From at anchor on the Brisbane river in the CBD.

Our view of Brisbane CBD from our anchorage – terrible eh (Story bridge in the background.)

After some school work we hit the town and visited Queensland Museum

Visiting the dinosaurs

Visiting the dinosaurs

Holly was a bit scared of the dinosaurs!

Today we sailed to Tangalooma and arrived late afternoon, lovely spot.

Arriving into Tangalooma

Sunset at Tangalooma

Sunset at Tangalooma

School while underway

School while underway

The plan is for a run to Mooloolaba for a great Indian Curry, to post some schoolwork and grab a bit of fruit and veg, before heading onto Tin Can Bay and Fraser Island over friday and the weekend. Although sunny, its still pretty brisk out on the water and we looking forward to getting a bit more north 🙂 🙂 🙂

Finally Leaving

Well here it is for all of you that have asked, a blog that will update you on our journey.

We are so excited!!!

The list of jobs that seemed so never-ending has whittled its way down to perhaps a more managable list, I don’t think there will ever be a time when you leave with all your jobs done. The big ones are ticked off, the boat is ready to sail!

We are getting a handle on this correspondence school.

And…finally we are wrapping up paid work!!! (for a little bit).

We are all surviving living on Orion and actually really enjoying the freedom of not having a big house to care for.

So we are leaving very early saturday morning for an island hop up the coast to airlie beach (gateway to the whitsunday islands). Pictures and exciting events to follow, but for now here are some pictures of the preparation from the last few months!IMG_4316

IMG_4360

Haulout, bottom paint, cut and buff hull.

IMG_4386

The chaos inside the boat while working on her.photo (37)photo (36)

Lots of sanding and varnishing!

photo (35)

Having a break

photo (34) photo (33)

Varnishing the toe rail, replacing the lifelines…

photo (32)

Re-bed all the leaky staunchion bases

photo (31)

New Oven

photo (30) photo (29)

Shiny

photo (28)photo (27)

Our lives on orion after moving aboard

IMG_4225

New Teak floor

IMG_9396

New Lowers

IMG_2542

More varnishing prep, washing wringer

Those are a just a few of the many projects undertaken in what has been a massive year, bring on cold drinks, sunsets, beaches and snorkelling!!