Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sandy Strait to Bundaberg

We've been on the move for the last week, going North to seek warmer weather. We are just now getting internet access again, so we are able to catch everyone up on what's been happening.

As explained in the last post, we got turned back on our first approach to the Great Sandy Strait due to strong head winds. Back on shore, repairs continued, here with Dave stitching up the jib sail. Our second attempt was hurried along by forecast swell coming that threatened to close out the entrance for a few days to come. It is important to arrive at the entrance during a flooding tide, which meant that we had to leave at night again to make it in time.

This time we were able to sail through the night in much calmer seas, and arrived near our destination as the sun rose. Dave, Evvy and Craig stood watch in turns through the night, and with more favorable winds we had a much better time on our second night out. It was still quite cold, though, a theme you will see somewhat constantly lately for us. The winds turned against us as we arrived, contrary to the forecast. After some motoring to get up wind, we arrived at the right spot and crossed over the sand bar. There were some waves around us, but we managed to come through safely, following the GPS coordinates and the navigation marks.

Once inside the Strait, we headed for the small town of Tin Can Bay, which has a small marina a couple kilometers from town. The sky stayed rather Wintery, and we pulled out the dinghy to go into the marina and have a look around. We found that were was a tourist dolphin feed, where tame dolphins come in to shore every day to be fed fish by tourists. We met a cruising neighbor who gave us good tips on how to proceed North, crossing the Sandy Strait to Hervey Bay. The tide window was coming later in the day, requiring us to leave the next morning to have a comfortable margin to cross over these shallow waters in high tide during daylight hours, so we headed out again the next morning.

This Sandy Strait route is well traveled by sail boats, but it is nevertheless quite shallow. We kept a close watch on the chart marks and the depth meter as we traversed an area that narrowed to just a few hundred feet across, and sometimes just a foot or two of water under our keel. As we made it completely through, smiles were all around. Another step North behind us.

Our next anchorage was near the Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island. The island is the place were a dingo famously attacked a baby, causing the mother to cry "a dingo ate my baby!" Although the mother was not at first believed since dingos are similar to coyotes, the lesson is well taken now as there were many signs about the danger of dingos and keeping tabs on your children. We had no dingo trouble, but did enjoy hearing their coyote like howls at night. We thought we may have remained on Fraser Island to explore and "bush walk", but Craig took a quick dip in the water and his chilly reception convinced us that it was best to keep sailing North.

Our next leg was 50 miles, quite a bit to make in one crossing, but winds were now blowing their (supposedly) typical Southern direction. An early morning departure was on order to make sure we would arrive at our destination before dark. The sailing was good, a great day going down wind. We were able to sail "wing on wing" for the first time in the trip, making an easy down wind run. We have now arrived at the mouth of the Bundaberg River, coming into a marina again to get in touch with people, in particular our first visitor, Evvy's Mom Marguerite is due to join us in just one week's time. We're off again tomorrow to make some more Northing before she arrives. We'll probably be out another week, finding our next connection with the internet at Keppel Bay. Fair winds - meaning down wind.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Night Sail

Here in Moolooba we have continued to tick things off our job list, though the jobs are getting much smaller. One of the most troublesome ones we have had is the rolling furling jib sail that we could not figure out how to change the furling line. Normally a very easy job to change this line, Dave and Craig spent many hours scratching their heads about how the mechanism was put together: it did not allow access to the knot holding the line in place, it seemed to be hermetically sealed inside the mechanism.

We made a break through with the help of a New Zealand cruiser on the dock who found the manufacturer of the unit. Prior to this we contacted "Reef-It" which is stamped on the drum, a company in Tasmania has that name, but they had never seen the unit, having no advice. We looked all over the internet for another company or reference wit "Reef-It", but it was all this Tasmanian company. We were stumped until our Kiwi neighbor said that most furlers there were made by Reef-Rite. Sure enough, a 2 minute call to Reef-Rite and we understood that the top of the furler which appeared to be a single unit by us and maybe a dozen spectator neighbors who looked on over the 3-4 occassions we had the furler disassembled. Once you know what to do, it was simple - Craig had it apart in minutes, and put back together in short order.

We were so excited to fix our furler that we decided to leave just a few hours later. There was just a breif weather window to go before a storm coming, so we planned to leave soon after dark on June 18. This meant we would go for our first night sail, and arrive at the crossing of a shallow bar at just the right tide. We had to make it on a schedule to coincide with the tides, but we gave ourselves a few hours extra, so that we could hopefully sail there on time, without having to run the engine to make a schedule.

We took an unusual step for us of talking with the Coast Guard, who in Australia seemed to be staffed by volunteers who are older men who are looking for something useful to do. We talked with them, got the latest weather, which was forecast for mild for the rest of the night, but stronger weather was on its way the next afternoon. We confirmed our decision to leave right way. Evvy and Dave ran to the store to get fresh food before leaving town and Craig got the boat ship shape for an overnight passage.

We left the harbor with hardly a breath of wind, and the beach nearby was quiet about sunset when we last looked. What a difference happened in a couple hours during our last minute prepareations. When we motored out of the break water the seas were a washing machine of confused waves, and the wind was blowing 15-20 knots, directly where we wanted to go, North West, far away from the forecast. We headed on, expecting conditions to change, but after 4 hours of trying, we were getting pushed further off shore away from our target, seas and winds growing by the hour, with wind now up to 25-30 and we were all a bit blue in the gills.

We decided to beat a retreat back to Moolooba, which meant turning down wind. Down wind sailing is MUCH easier, so we had an immediate change of scene, though the seas were still lumpy. As we sailed back to port, the wind and seas came back to a very reasonable level, and even started to turn more South, which would have enabled us to actually sail to our destination! It was hard to see the wind beginning to come from a better direction, but it was no matter since we were out of time to make it across the Hervey Bay bar during the right tide. There were squalls of gusty wind and rain started coming in and Evvy was steering us home by hand to make sure we came in safely. We arrived back in port about 3 a.m., the seas had calmed and the wind was back to a reasonable level. We spent the next day in Mooloolaba, recovering from the uncomfortable all night sail in the comfort of the marina and the little beach and boardwalk near us.

Maia is looking out to sea again right now, perhaps we will be out of communication for a week or two while moving North to Hervey Bay and beyond. More pics on next update.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


We are in Mooloolaba completing chores and exploring. Mooloolaba is a beautiful spot with squeaky sand beaches (it sounds like the sand is barking when you walk on it).

google satelite image of Mooloolaba.

The sail up from Scarborough was calm. Actually a little too calm, we had to motor a bit to make it into Mooloolaba before dark. In route we saw a sea turtle swim by and dolphins did flips for us as we entered the marina. The oddest sighting on the trip though, was a US submarine zooming towards us with a HUGE bow wake.
This is a picture of Dave looking at the sub in the uncomfortably close distance. Luckily for us, it slowed down by the time it came near. The USS Cheyenne could have easily run us over.

Most of the trip we stayed close to the shore. Unfamiliar mountains and small brush fires decorated the horizon.
At sunset we rounded the point into the protected waters at Malooloolaba.

One of the chores crossed off the list was cutting Craig's hair. Cutting hair on the dock makes for an easy clean-up. This picture was taken at the moment that I accidentally cut a large chunk of hair behind Craig's left ear. I am told "oops" is not a good thing to say while cutting hair.

After our chores we took a break on the beach across the road from the marina.

The weather has been cold at night and warm and sunny during the day. Just to be clear, when we say "cold" it is not as cold as San Francisco on a summer day. It gets down to 50 degrees at night now. Nothing harsh, but we are looking forward to the warmer temperatures at lower latitudes as we head north.

Our plan as of ten minutes ago is to head north tonight to Fraser Island. We would leave at night so that we arrive at the bar in the morning close to high tide. This will allow us to sail over the sand bar easily with good visibility for the signs posted to keep us in deep, safe water. If we wait another day, we may need to wait a week to get another weather window. So we'll sign off for now and get in touch again when we pull into another marina with internet access.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Out on the water

In our first day out of the marina we saw a lot more of Australia: wild kangaroos, a wallaby with a baby, a ship wreck, colorful beatles, an abandoned leper colony, and more. We anchored off from Peel Island, just a few hours sail from our 'home' port of Manly. Maia turns out to be very well behaved at anchor, more great news. There is one draw back though, her water tank sloshes around very loudly right under where Evvy and Craig sleep, which will take some adjustment. It is good that Maia is otherwise good at anchor since the wind howled at us for days, providing quite unseasonable weather. The wind is kind of like the Santa Ana winds in Los Angeles where the wind blows off the desert out to sea, except here when this happens the wind is colder instead of warmer. We stayed quite warm though with hot tea, coffee, great home made soup by Evvy, and our first fresh baked bread.

Today the sun came back, the wind lightened and turned South. It was down right hot when we pulled back into Manly. We had to circle back because we departed without our EPIRB (an emergency device). Our plan was to come back to get it in a few days, then head North. While at Peel Island, we received a message that the EPIRB had arrived for us, so today, Sunday we circled back to retrieve it. Unfortunately, the marina sent the package back to the sender in Sydney, hundreds of miles away. So we decided to go North with only our backup EPIRB for now and we will retrieve the more sophisticated EPIRB up the coast. Today was the Queen's birthday, so everything was closed. We hope to get some business done tomorrow (Tuesday).

Picture Time

This is a picture of our self-steering device keeping us on track while we sail away from Manly Harbor.

We are currently anchored near Scarborough, just north of Manly, still a suburb of Brisbane (we move slow). We spent the last few nights on different islands in Moreton Bay.

Our friends Frank and Jane gave us a warm farewell from the dock.

Our almost completed bimini is great for shade in the cockpit and increases the amount of rainwater we can catch.

Craig and I as we sailed to our first anchorage.

Dave completes odd jobs while we sail.

We arrived at Peel island, a former leper colony, before the sun set.
This is Peel Island in the distance off of Maia's bow.

The next day we inflated the dingy (little boat) and came to shore for a walk.
The plants and bugs are really interesting. We are looking for a good book to help us identify all of the strange varieties. Also on this walk we saw two kangaroos hopping away from us. One stared at us from a distance for a while. We also saw (we think) a wallaby with a baby in the pouch. Unfortunately - no pictures. The roos are too fast and don't like to get close enough for portraits.

Dave found a ruined building that looks like it might have been used as a jail.
After a few nights at Peel Island we moved on to St. Helena Island (actually closer to Manly but on the way North). This island was a prison and one of the first settlements in Australia. Now it is a National Park. Unfortunately, because the lawns are so well watered, the mosquito's are thick. We did spot a couple of kangaroos before we scurried back to our boat.
This is Craig tying up the dingy at St. Helena.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Heading out

Maia and her crew are heading out of the marina tomorrow, without any schedule or particular destination. That is nice to write, after so much preparation. Our days have been full of completing all the tasks we've been working on: completing all of the rust remediation projects, putting the rigging back together, fixing the water tank, installing new water pumps and getting a filter, buying lots of cordage (ropes for the sails and to tie things down), propane, seat cushions, electrical parts, stuff to keep us from slipping on the deck, up to code safety equipment, storage bins that fit just right, charts (water maps), navigation equipment ... you get the idea, the list was much longer. We rented a little car to move all this stuff and drive to get the best deals in all the pricing we've been doing.

It is shocking to us that Maia has swallowed up all the of the things we have bought, and there remains a huge amount of space left. This is a real cruising boat with lots of of room for all the things you want to pack into it. We can't believe it is only 32' feet long. Evvy thinks it must be 40'. There is good people space too, for Evvy and Craig anyway -- truth be told, Dave's berth is pretty tight.

Maia had her rent pre-paid up until tomorrow for a while, so this departure date has been in mind from the time we moved aboard. We had hoped to do some travelling around on Maia before tomorrow, but with so many balls in the air, we decided to keep doing projects. The crew are very happy to put away the tools after 10 days of chipping rust, sanding, and painting, each and every day.

After almost two months here, we are getting our first real rain, which promises to make a gloomy departure. The rain is expected to abate on Friday, so we should dry out before long. Evvy heard from a woman in the marina office that it hasn't rained like this in Brisbane for 3 years. The area is in a severe drought, with watering restrictions - they truck in water to the marina to water the lawn. The former owner of Maia, Bruce is part of the government works project to quickly build desalination plants in the area. So we're hiding out from the rain, really enjoying our new bimini awning and marveling at how much catchment water is coming in.

OK, so we haven't taken any pictures of all this happening. For some appeasement, we will take some pictures right now, as Evvy is organizing, Craig is writing the blog, and Dave is mending a sweater, and we're all hiding out from the rain as you can see from the soaked aft deck. That's our latest, not sure where or when we'll next have internet access, it could be a week or more. We don't have immediate plans to leave Moreton Bay, so we'll check in by then. As the locals are fond of saying here, "too easy."