Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Super Moon Sailing

I walked for hours across Fraser Island in the light rain feeling the sand between my toes but never found a lake. I did find a crystal clear stream for a bath and amongst the vine strewn forest I saw an evil little cane toad. The tide had turned when I returned to Moonbow so with a few hours of daylight left I rode the tide around to South White Cliffs and put the shallowest part of the Sandy Strait behind me.

Sandy Strait Sailing
Saturday morning I set sails and went with the tide to Hervey Bay. I had ideas of anchoring off the north end of Fraser Island but the wind was making it a lee, so after briefly considering anchoring off the townships of Hervey Bay, I kept sailing and literally sailed into the sunset. A supermoon caused by the moon being closer than normal to the earth, light up the sea all night. Bundaberg was an option but not as inspiring as the little town of 1770. Captain Cook made a landing here in 1770 and after negotiating the tight channel, I found a little hole which I hoped would have enough water left to float Moonbow when the tide receded. 1770 is a lovely little hamlet which makes a great beef burger with caramelised onion jam and is so confident of the quality of their coffee, they feel confident to charge five dollars per cup.

Into the Sunset
A short hop of just over ten miles the next day before a gentle south westerly brought me to Pancake Creek. It is almost a mirror image of the creek at 1770 in many ways but with no town it looks more like Captain Cook would have seen it. A couple of kilometres through the bush down a little track brought me to the immaculately maintained Bustard Head lighthouse. It was odd to see a sistership to the amphibious LARCs we use at Macquarie Island loaded with tourists making a visit. I was quizzed on my origin and having established my credentials as a yachtie I was allowed to pass. There seems to be a turf war between the historical society that have the lease on the lighthouse and the Castaway Backpackers who fly in on a small plane. The plane lands on a nearby beach and the backpackers get a castaway experience of bush camping. It seems the culture clash of high spirited young people with the obsessive compulsive old farts of the historical society has led the backpackers to be banned from the lighthouse turf, with signs to the effect erected along the path.

Pancake Creek ( The hungry sandflies are massing just out of view)
An early start was needed from Pancake Creek to catch the tide into Gladstone. The supermoon was still glowing as I set the spinnaker and Moonbow started eating up the miles. I counted 23 ships waiting off Gladstone as the sun rose and I carefully crept up the outside of the shipping lane to avoid their movements. Gladstone was like sailing into Moordor, The smelters, power station, iron ore loaders and of course the new LNG development made an erie landscape. It gets weird at night when from within the town you can look out and in all directions there are the twinkling lights of these industrial facilities. The streets are a mass of high visibility clothing and lines of workers file between buses and ferrys that take them between the LNG Plant and their accomodation.

Super Moon Sailing
I am busy restocking Moonbow with food as there are some long stretches without towns coming up. That done I will be glad to get going tomorrow and head for Hummocky Island. The first of the little islands on the Coral Coast for me.

Since leaving Sydney;
- 56 litres of diesel used
- 848 nautical miles logged

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tangles at Tangalooma

The rain is tapping gently on the deck this morning as Moonbow swings to the tide in the sheltered waters of the Great Sandy Strait. In Southport a week ago I woke up and cancelled my appointment with the taylor for a Don Johnston suit, decided not to trade Moonbow in on a cigarette speedboat and after farewells, hauled the anchor up. I headed north through the Broadwater toward Moreton Bay. Bizzarely apartment buildings rose up from the mangrove swamps and then abruptly the Miami style suburbia gave way to sand islands and mangroves. Just a few hours later I dropped anchor at Tipplers where sandy wallabies foraged along the beach.

The Wallabies of Tipplers
The next stage of the inside passage provided more challenging pilotage and with Alan Lucas talking of the picturesque qualities of the Canopia Channel I gave it a go. Little channels everywhere and I confess I found the bottom and went aground. Oddly with the port lateral mark just a few metres off Moonbow's port beam. The tide was with us and it wasn't long before it picked us up and swept us on along the channel. The final stage of the channel had a suprising number of substantial vessels wrecked along the coast. Clearly a severe storm had swept through to cause such havoc in these sheltered waterways.

Aground next to the lateral mark.
It was with a certain amount of relief that we emerged into Moreton Bay and hoisted sails again. Storming across Moreton Bay with a stiff westerly I was headed for the anchorage in the lee of the Tangalooma Wrecks. Not an ideal anchorage in these conditions but in the absence of options I knew it would be workable. Getting in there proved the challenge and in the last of the daylight I was surfing through breakers toward a lee shore with the depthsounder registering lows only beaten in the Canopia Channel earlier in the day. It was a relief when I got into the trench that ran along the beach and then found the lee between the wrecks and the beach to drop anchor.

Tangalooma Wrecks on a good day.
It was a rolly and uncomfortable night that served its purpose but provided little rest. The next morning when the sun came up I could have been mistaken for thinking that the tidal currents had swept me off to a better place. The water was glass calm, the breakers gone and the beach ever so inviting. Coming in through the surf the night before the dinghy had been keener than Moonbow and on a few occasions I noticed it dance up past the cockpit. It was during all that cavorting that it threw the oars out. I really should have stowed them on Moonbow. I headed ashore for a walk along the beach and to my surprise found both oars resting amongst the sea weed. We were complete again!

The strong westerly had swept a lot of Brisbane's plastic waste up on the beach so it was a fruitful day of beach combing with the help of the National Parks Ranger.

The second night at Tangalmooma was no picnic either and so about three o'clock in the morning I had no problem getting up and setting sail to catch the outgoing tide. The labyrinth of sand banks reminded me of the Riddle of the Sands and provided a great pilotage exercise as I picked by way through the unmarked channels to keep away from the shipping. A good westerly kept the pace up and I arrive off Point Cartwright, Mooloolaba about mid morning. I started the engine, dropped the sails and heard the oil pressure alarm. I checked the oil and refilled it. Started up and made it halfway to the bar. This process repeated itself four times in all, with me getting faster at refilling as the channel got tighter. Having poured in the last drop of spare oil I made the berth at the marina.

I was a little dejected to be honest but Ben from Dolphin Marine came over and we found that one of the engine mounts had broken. We suspected that this had caused the oil line to rupture but later found that the engine had landed on the oil filter and split it. Within a couple of days Ben had it all sorted and I felt a lot better. Mooloolaba is a nice place to be stranded and it allowed me time to do some maintenance and restock supplies.

North from Mooloolaba
Yesterday I choofed out of Mooloolaba, set the main and yankee and enjoyed a beautiful sail before a 20 knot southerly. Rounding Double Island Point amidst a heavy rain squall, an ambling Humpback Whale surfaced just ten metres off the beam. It was heading north too and we travelled together for about an hour before I altered course for the Wide Bay Bar. The whale would go along the outside of Fraser Island but I took the short cut through the Great Sandy Straits. The bar is wide but all efforts to place markers on the shifting sand banks at the bar have failed. The heavy surf sweeping them away. The wind took us in, with the last light of the day highlighting the breakers on the sand bars. As darkness fell I eased sheets and ran before the wind in the calm waters of the Great Sandy Straits, to drop anchor at Gary's Anchorage.

The rain is still falling but when I finish this pot of coffee, I am off to try and find the clear fresh water lakes that Fraser Island is renown for. So much to see!

Since leaving Sydney;
- 50 litres of diesel used
- 708 nautical miles logged.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Border Crossing

The Solitary Islands stretched out before me as I headed Moonbow out of Coffs Harbour. A good southerly wind had filled in just before dawn and I set the twin headsails as soon as I cleared the breakwater. A Harmony 34 left at the same time and not long after a big cat followed us. The saying "two boats makes a race" is so true. The big cat blew us off before we had cleared the Solitary Islands. The Harmony 34 didn't have a spinnaker pole so its downwind sailing angle was pretty shallow. They had boat speed over Moonbow but we could sail so much deeper. Eventually their boat speed prevailed and I haven't seen them since.
South Solitary Island
Mid afternoon I gybed in toward the coast to get out of the southbound current before night fell. I came on the coast at Yamba just as another rain squall passed. Lashed by the rain, I started to reconsider carrying on through the night for Southport. I checked the tides at Yamba and they were perfect for entry and also exit the next morning. The wind forecast had changed and the wind was meant to hold in the following day. So it was, that I dropped anchor at Yamba for the night for a good deep sleep.

Heading out the next day I was passed at the river entrance by two other Hobart yachts that took off at full speed up the coast. The weather forecast didn't quite hold true. The wind had dropped significantly and left a washing machine sea which broke the gooseneck sadly. The wind eventually came in from the east and by dusk I had the spinnaker up and was hauling past Cape Byron. The wind held into the night and was to be the best sailing of trip reaching along in the dark toward the bright lights that rose out of the sea at the Gold Coast.
Sailing "Footloose" after breaking the gooseneck
It was 0400 when I finally dropped the anchor at Southport in a small sandy basin officially called the "Aquatic Stadium" but known locally as "Bums Bay". An eclectic mix of vessels, from house boats which seem to be continually sinking or dragging anchor, International cruisers and of course the eccentric boats. It is this later category that I find most interesting. There is a Bolger 30 that draws just 13"with tan sails of course and Captain Gecko at the helm. There is the beautiful Russell McNabb gaff ketch "Gypsy Pearl" with dinghy "Black Pearl" and of course a particularly fine Wharram cat "Ta2".

The Calm of Southport
A new DSC VHF radio with AIS finally caught up with me and I have spent the day installing it. Phil West at Sheerline Spars is machining up a new gooseneck part today and I hope to have that fitted soon and be heading off up the inside of Stradbroke Island. It feels good to have the NSW coast behind me and I am really looking forward to getting up to Fraser Island, perhaps only a week away.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Great Day Sailing

Sitting in Forster the next forecast was Monday with 25-30 knots easing to 15-25 in the morning before decreasing below 10 knots in the evening. Sunday was a full blown gale but by Tuesday it looked like the wind would all be gone. I decided that an early start with Monday mornings high tide was my best option and while I might have a bit of a rough ride initially it would be moderating and with any luck I would make as many miles as I could before the wind collapsed.

Wing & Wing
The reality was to prove better. I nosed Moonbow out over the bar in the dark and found a nice westerly blowing. Starting with the full main and yankee I quickly set the mizzen. Not long after, I changed to the genoa and then swapped that for the spinnaker. The wind freshened and it was back to the genoa but we were making great miles in an easy fashion with the Aries wind vane doing most of the steering.

A bit after ten the wind swung into the south and hovered around 20-25 knots. I set the yankee and genoa, wing & wing and Moonbow took off. A couple of hours of this I dropped the mizzen and mainsail which didn't seem to harm our speed much at all. I was still ticking off the headlands as they streamed past. The sea was providing a few good surfs and this killed any ideas I had entertained of stopping in Port Macquarie. I was nervous about that bar entrance as it was, but with a seaway it would be too interesting for me. Moonbow was making such good miles, that Coffs Harbour was the obvious objective.

Aries loving the added pressure
The wind kept up, with some easing around sunset and then around midnight swung back into the southwest. By that stage I was past Smoky Cape and could see the lights of Coffs on the horizon. Smoky Cape will always stick in my mind from the 1999 Melbourne Osaka Race when a deep low had formed off the east coast. The cold front had hit the fleet around Gabo Island and by the time we got to the north coast it was still raging. Tired and ragged, I made a radphone call to the meteorologist, Roger Badham, enquiring as to whether it would be less severe offshore or maybe inshore. He was great but he didn't give me any hope for a reprieve anywhere, so we decided to take "time out" and head for Coffs Harbour. That plan went out the window as we passed Smoky Cape and heard that Coffs Harbour had been closed. We took a hard left turn and I have this distinct memory of surfing side ways down a wave as I desperately made a bid to get under the lee of Smoky Cape. We dropped anchor in Trial Bay with much relief. The little Adams 10 had done well and we spent the next day listening in to the HF radio of competitors pitchpoling, sinking, rolling and loosing steering. We had planned to head off the next day but in light of the dramas that unfolded we were happy to spend another day in the relative security of Smoky Cape. The rest of the race to Japan was straightforward and I still regard anchoring under Smoky Cape as one of the best tactical decisions.

The wind held all the way and I eventually tied up in Coffs Harbour around 0400, tired but having had a really cracking sail. It is about fifty miles to Yamba or 150 miles to the Southport Seaway. Saturday looks promising with a 15-20 knot southeasterly so we will see how far I get.

PS. The phone got wet on this leg and I had thought I wouldn't have any photos but then I found these two photos has been automatically synced to Facebook and the iCloud. Bless technology!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Broughton Island

Heading for Broughton Island
It was easy spending time in Port Stephens but after a diversion to Fame Cove (named after a schooner not the musical), I headed out with a gentle north westerly land breeze bound for Broughton Island. The sea was calm and while progress was slow in a light breeze it was easy miles. Moonbow slipped into Esmeralda Cove under full sail in the early afternoon. The fisherman's shacks were deserted and I had the whole island to myself.
Esmeralda Cove, Broughton Island
With Moonbow packed away and secure I rowed ashore and headed out along the little tracks. Broughton Island is the largest offshore island in NSW and offers so much. Teeming with wildlife I saw a tiny snake and lots of birds. Apart from Esmeralda Cove there are two other anchorages, which between them offer protection from all winds. The coastline has it all from sheer cliffs to great little sandy beaches. The beaches became the target for some beachcombing the next day which collected the following plastics and two bonus lead dive weights.

Beachcombing Bootie on Providence Beach, Broughton Island
I am constantly cruising the Weatherzone weather app these days to identify opportunities to make miles up the coast. This past week has been predominantly northerly winds, which is not the southerlies I was hoping for this time of year. A nasty front was brewing and the wind was going to swing into the NW before the fronts arrival. This would allow a fetch up the coast in the protection of the land. It looked like Saturday might offer what I was looking for, so I was up before the sun. I hoisted the sails, slipped the mooring and headed out past the sea cliffs of Little Broughton Island.

Dawn heading north from Broughton Island
At sunrise, Moonbow was close hauled and on course for Seal Rocks, making easy miles. Arriving at Seal Rocks about midday I was faced with a dead beat to Forster and just as I had accepted a night of plodding against the wind, I realised I could drop the anchor in the lee of Seal Rocks and do the miles to Forster on Sunday when the wind would have swung into a more favourable angle. Tacking into Seal Rocks, I saw the "rat runs" through the rocks that we used to use racing north to avoid the south bound current, were letting quite a bit of swell through. Not a problem as I spied a very solid headland a mile down the coast. If I was looking for comfort from the chart, I didnt find it in the name "Treachery Head". I dont know what the history is but I suspect that the local aboriginal people might have kicked a goal here. Treachery Head provided a workable anchorage just outside the surf zone.
Approaching Cape Hawke
The next morning I awoke to humpback whales breaching a mile off the stern.  I hauled up the anchor and with a reef in the main and yankee, headed out to chase those whales down. There were whales in sight all morning and they put on quite a show breaching and tail slapping. The wind came and went with the rain squalls but not long after rounding Cape Hawke, on final approach to the entrance at Forster, the cold front caught up with me. I had just taken in all the sails leaving Moonbow to crawl under motor against the 40 knots. It was only the GPS that convinced me that we were making any headway. Finally we made it to the bar and the incoming tide picked us up and whisked us up the channel where I dropped the anchor with a great sense of relief. Another 40 knot rain squall came in and I ducked below decks, leaving it to pressure wash all the salt off the rigging.

I have Moonbow alongside today and while it is still blowing quite hard offshore it looks like tomorrow might be a good day for making some more miles north. Port Macquarie maybe?