07 December, 2006

We made it back to Brisbane!

2 December

We’re back ! Back on the blog and back in Brisbane. We’ve been back for over a week now.. When we last wrote we were in Townsville and had done most of the bad sailing, well motoring actually. Since then the sailing has been pretty good really. A mixture of pleasant winds and calmish seas. Oh, I forgot, coming into Bunderberg was a tad tense. About 35-40 knots astern which was fine until we had to turn into the Bundy river, pitch black, howling wind on the beam with waves crashing over the side, trying to get some sail down and a couple of smaller motor boats puttering in at the same time that we had to watch out for. I must say radar is a great navigation aid in the dark. Still we made it in safely, anchored up the river a bit out of harms way and had a peaceful dinner about 9.30.

Then of course there was the lightning squall that hit us a couple of days later going down the Great Sandy Strait. That was impressive. The night before was lovely and calm but we awoke to a strong southerly, which meant we had to move from our once safe anchorage and head down the strait. As we left, the VHF radio station covering the area said they were shutting down due to a lightning storm. Apparently getting zapped down your antenna while broadcasting isn’t the done thing. We could see the lightning over the bay as well as hear it. It was amazing watching huge bolts strike the ground on the horizon. Unfortunately the horizon got nearer and nearer and it becomes less amazing as it started to hit all around us. When you start to see and hear massive explosions around you, along with sheet rain dropping your vision to about 100 metres, it gets a bit off-putting !! Given that getting a few million volts down your mast when you are sailing isn’t great for the electrics, we disconnected everything we could - batteries, radios, GPS, computers, radar etc. Here we are, lightning belting all around us, heavy squalls of rain and wind, in about 7 metres of water with sand banks all around. Time to drop the anchor and hunker down. After it had passed our immediate area we carried on, the only damage being that the surges appear to have knocked out our electronic wind direction indicator. Did I say the sailing had been pretty good? It’s amazing really because when it’s all over, you really do seem to forget it.

Since that storm it has been really nice. That night we stayed in Garry’s anchorage, which is very protected, and we watched as the lightning storm went on all day and into the night. Very impressive. That same storm brought big winds and storm damage to Brisbane, covered the MCG with hail and brought snow to NSW, it really was an “event” as they say.
The winds were staying southerly for a while so we holed up in a little town in Tin Can Bay where we managed to do our usual, have coffees, go to the markets and watch some sport at the pub. This time the Aussies beat the Poms in the league to put us in the final. (Sad story from then on.) Yet another nice wee town, very protected down the end of a long estuary, even had some tame dolphins that came for a feed every morning.

Seeing as the southerly had blown for a few days, by the time we left with a good forecast there were quite a few yachts doing the same and heading down to Mooloolaba. This was the first time we’ve really been able to gauge how the boat performs compared to other yachts and I must say we were pretty happy. For a 15 tonne plus steel cruiser we were able to pass some and hold our own with others, so that’s good. It was somewhere around here, about Great Sandy Strait, that we passed the 2000 nautical mile mark, so you could say we have sailed around NZ! From north cape down one coast, around Bluff, watching out for icebergs (are those things still around?) and back up the other side. I suppose that only goes to show how big Aussie really is. We haven’t even done all of one state!

One really nice place we stopped at on our way south was Middle Percy Island (in the Whitsundays). The scene when we arrived was of clear and blue waters, and a lovely white sandy beach with palm trees. Quite idyllic …… Shane tried to climb up one of the coconut trees to get some coconuts; after he had gone to all the trouble he found a ladder under one of the trees further along!! The owner of the island built an A-frame about 50 years ago, and since then it has been filled with all sorts of memorabilia from passing yachties. Some yachts have been there a number of times over the years. It was really interesting to look at the very arty and creative contributions left by some of the passing yachties. The sign out the front of the A-frame says "Percy Hilton".

We stopped again at The Town of 1770 and had three days there – a great spot. Caravan park right on the beach; pelicans swimming by all the time, and the beach a hive of activity all day long with holidaymakers swimming and fishing.

So, now we are in Brisbane, tied up to the pile berths in the Brisbane River with the city a 50 metre tender ride away, all for $50 a week. Fantastic. Not a bad view from the rear deck of the boat either........

The ferries go past during the day and give us a bit of a rocking but it’s quite pleasant really. They stop during the night so we get a good night’s sleep. The object of getting here of course was to see Elton John. He was great. Did mostly his popular older stuff with only about four songs from his new album. He must be a happy old “married” man now as he is a chubby wee thing, but he can still belt out the ivories. Great show with seats really close to the stage. It will forever be known as the “Chunder down-under” concert as about three quarters of the way through he left the stage with no announcement or anything, just up and left. The guitarist said something about he was sure he would be back soon and jammed some music till he returned. He duly arrived back on stage; he said he had to be sick and thought it better to throw up in the toilets rather than the front row. A true professional, not a sign before and not a sign afterwards. Elton was great but Cirque de Soleil was just magical. We went to see their latest show “Varekai” and it does leave you speechless. Fantastic skills needless to say, but all wrapped up in such beauty. Heather has seen three of their shows now, me two, and each time it is a trip to wonderland. I suppose it’s like looking at a great painting coming to life. And for our third form of entertainment this week - there is the movie “Borat”. Entertainment at a whole new level. About as low down in the gutter as you can get and absolutely hysterical!!!! Shane reckons the movie is one of those classics that will live forever. If you have no problem taking the p*ss out of everything go see it. It must be good, several people are suing big time.

Which brings us up to date, apart from that on the last day we were coming in to Brisbane, we sucked up a jelly fish into the engine intake, blocked off the cooling system, overheated the engine which now only runs at about ¾ revs without overheating.

There were literally thousands and thousands of jellyfish in the water - this photo will give a bit of an idea. In some parts of the river, it was wall-to-wall jellyfish, you couldn't see the water for them.

So, it’s off to a marina next week and we will fix the engine problem. It really is one thing after another with the boating life. (We know now what they mean when they say B-O-A-T stands for ‘bring on another thousand……). Good news is we thought the fridge (again) had finally given up the ghost and were pricing and planning how to put in a new one. A couple of days later Shane found it was only a grub screw that had come loose. The beers and gins are cold again!

Fast forward to today - December 7th!……. We left the pile berth in the river this morning, and have moved to a berth at Rivergate Marina to get the engines looked at. As well as the problems we knew we had with the big engine, the little engine (that we use to top up the power in the batteries each day) is playing up as well. We have had limited power over the last week, which means that we haven’t been able to use the laptop much (and get this blog update finished!). We are a little ways out of the city now; close to the Gateway Bridge and right by the airport (should be fun trying to sleep at night with the planes flying by…….). One bit of good news – it took us an hour and a half to get to the marina today and the engine showed no sign of overheating at all. So it might not be all bad news. We are also going to get two solar panels fitted while we are at the marina which will mean we will have lots of power from here on – as long as the sun shines!!!!!! We are on ‘A’ finger at Rivergate; we think ‘A’ here must stand for ‘awfully flash’ as the good yacht enzwell looks really tiny compared to the million/multi-million dollar yachts that are alongside us. There’s nothing like us lowering the tone of the neighbourhood!

The engine fix-it man has just been – and it’s good news with the big engine. It appears that the problem was likely to have been an air-block somewhere, and it has cleared. Not such good news with the small engine – it is not well – but we don’t need to worry about sorting that in the immediate future.

While we were on the piles (and close to the shops) we managed to get all our Christmas cards and shopping done. It’s got to be a record for me, having all that stuff done by 6 December. Now we can just sit back and let everyone else get stressed out with the Christmas rush!

And on that note, we hope that everyone has a great festive season. Merry Christmas and all the best for 2007 from the ‘enzwellers’.

Heather and Shane Posted by Picasa