12 September, 2006

Thursday 7 September

Here’s the latest update from our travels.

We left Airlie Beach on 22 August and headed back around the Whitsundays – one of the main reasons being to go to ‘Whitehaven Day’. We found out what it was all about. Every August Hamilton Island Race Week is held. On the lay day, all the boaties (along with most of the backpackers in the area) head over to Whitehaven Beach for a ‘party day’. We had heard it was a 24-hour party, but in fact it only went from about 11 in the morning until late afternoon. Whitehaven Beach usually only has a few yachties, and the daily charter tours visiting for a couple of hours, but on Whitehaven Day there would have been between 200-300 yachts, not to mention charter boats packed full of party goers, beer tents, and loud music. In all, there were probably about 5000 people there!

Here’s a shot giving an idea of how it was wall-to-wall yachts along the beachfront.

Shane and I anchored pretty close to the action, sat on our rear deck, (gin and beer) cans in hand, and ‘people watched’ a fair bit of the day. The water Police were there; we saw them ‘put the bag’ on the driver of a tender, who had been yahooing right in front of them. Nothing like drawing unwanted attention!

Our last night in the Whitsundays was at Blue Pearl Bay, which is on Hayman Island. There I saw some of the best coral and fish that I had seen in all of the Whitsundays.

We continued our travels north up the coast, and stopped one night at Jonah Bay in the Gloucester Passage. It was a beautiful little bay that looked virtually isolated. On closer examination, we could see a few tents on the beachfront. We went ashore for a walk, and met a couple, John and Lynn, who were ‘free camping’ on council land. They camped at Jonah Bay for four months over winter, before they moved on. John was originally from Gisborne. They invited us back at night to sit around the fire with them. We had a good night, with John recounting many a story of his adventures over the years being a crayfisherman, hairdresser (ladies and mens), sailing up to Asia etc. He was in amazing nick for 69! He also told us about the oysters across the bay at Saddleback Island. We went and got some the next morning – oyster patties for lunch, yum! We are finding one of the great things about the cruising life is the many interesting and varied people we are meeting; people we would never have come across in our ‘old life’.

After Jonah Bay we had planned on spending two nights at the Gloucester Eco-resort, which is at Cape Gloucester. Although we caught up with Ken there (a yachtie who we had first met in Brisbane), and met another lovely couple, we were not that inspired with the resort, so only stayed one night.

The next stop was Bowen, a town on the Queensland coast that time and tourism has virtually forgotten. Bowen had a great bakery, with pie eating competition, and internet café, but apart from that, the town is very similar to somewhere such as Taihape. Get the picture? (Apologies to those who were brought up in Taihape!!).

We left Bowen on the morning of 1 September, our plans being to head for Cape Upstart. Cape Upstart is yet another location along this coast that was named by Captain Cook. Shane decided to put two lures out to see if we could get any fish. We had heard the mackerel in these parts were pretty good. We put the asymmetric up (big front sail) and were getting along at quite a good speed. I noticed the lure lines had crossed over and told Shane. Guess what, we had a fish! A nice big mackerel, 87 cms long! That was dinner taken care of for four nights!

While Shane was making sure the fish wasn’t about to make a dive for freedom, there was a loud bang. The halyard at the top of the asymmetric had broken. The sail flopped into the water, causing no end of drag. The fish got dropped on the deck, and while I tried to keep the boat away from the approaching rocks, Shane frantically hauled the sail out of the water and into the boat. It was hard work, but we got there in the end. However, we now had a broken halyard to replace and a sail to dry. We still had the fish though!

The following day was even more exciting (??!!). We left the anchorage at Cape Upstart, planning to spend the night at Cape Bowling Green before heading into Townsville the following day. The winds were quite fresh when we left in the morning, but they really got up during the day. Gusts of up to 50 knots heading up the isthmus of land to Cape Bowling Green, and 3 metre sea swells. Not pleasant, having swells coming up and over the boat all the time, and it was certainly a little scary! We got a gust of 55 knots as we rounded the Cape, and could see there was no protection at all from the weather where we planned to anchor. We decided to carry on and head north up to the next point, Cape Cleveland. We got there 4 hours later; conditions were only a little better so we decided not to attempt anchoring, but continue on to Townsville, just another two hours away. So, after 12 hours in total, we finally made it at 8.30 at night. That was the worst weather we have had to date. Shane told me the following day that the winds we experienced were classed as ‘severe gale force’. That explained why we heard hardly any other boats on the airwaves!

We got to Townsville, and the calm waters of the marina. On day two there, Shane decided to do a bit more work on the rust. There was some in the hull, right in the engine compartment area of the boat. Shane worked on some on the struts, and then turned his attention to rust on the inside of the hull itself. After a few minutes of banging at areas that were under the waterline, water decided to make an unwelcome entrance. An immediate withdrawal from the water was required and so we headed for the one haul-out yard in the area. Back to life on the ‘hard’ for a few days. And if that wasn’t enough adventure for one week, there was more to come!

Shane found a second hole in the hull, way bigger than the first. This meant we had to get welding done in the hull. The job was half done, and Shane thought he would go into the ‘bowels’ of the boat to see how the job looked from the inside. Lucky he did, as the welder had forgotten we have foam lining on the inside of the boat, and the heat from the welding torch set the foam alight. Shane arrived to find foot high flames. The water on the boat had been switched off, so he used the remaining water in the stove jug, and threw a water bottle to me to fill quickly!

We are due back on the water tomorrow, after which we’ll be back to the marina again for five days some of which will be spring cleaning the boat as it has got filthy on the ‘hard’. Hopefully the hull has no more surprises in store for quite some time, and we can get back to enjoying the Australian coastline, rather than making frequent trips to haul out yards! Still while we were out we did the shaft bearing and put on a new coat of anti-foul so the boat actually looks pretty smart at the moment. Lesson learned: never, never, never work on any part of the boat that is below the water line if not near a haul out facility, and only do such work on weekdays. Had the haul-out yard not have been nearby and available, it would have been all hands to the pumps!

Shane busy anti-fouling the boat.

I have encountered one further problem. I managed to avoid contact with the Aussie mossies and sandflies up until a few days. They are obviously making up for lost time, and my legs are now covered in huge welts from where they have attacked. One of the not so pleasant aspects of tropical living……… It was off to the chemist this morning to get some high-octane relief cream………. And I’m now using a new body spray called ‘Rid’ and taking mega-doses of Vitamin B…….

Sunday 10 September
And now for Shane’s “It’s a Small World” segment……

I could make this a very long story and unfold it as it happened however suffice to say, here we are back moored up at Townsville marina, next to us is a boat that I had seen for sale a while ago and these people have just moved on to it, as in last week. He has a “Warriors” flag flying from the stern and so we get chatting and yeah he’s a kiwi. Not only a kiwi, no great surprise here, but went to school with my brother Kim, played in a band with him when they were teenagers, came around the old home and remembered Dad and the house really well. 40 years later, here we are moored beside each other in Townsville! Well bug…er me! Oh and for a short time he also stayed in the same flat I was in at Bondi a lifetime ago with a mate of mine who I was flatting with. So Kev, do you remember Peter Anderton?

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