Friday, April 30, 2010

Bowen, Australian capital of climate

We are now in Bowen which claims, among other things to be the climate capital of Australia. In May, June, July and August, the temperature stays around 25 celsius or 77 F.
It is a very strange town again. This one is huge in terms of infrastructures, but with only a population of 13,000 people. It feels like a very large shell in which roam around a few cars and people. Imagine a town of 13,000 with every street as large as the Champs Elysee in Paris !
There is a Catalina memorial on the sea side, remembering the most popular war plane of the second world war, which was a bomber but also a seaplane.
Throughout town, there are mural paintings. And the most popular pubs are to be found in backpackers hotels.
The size of the town is enormous, but you can visit most of it in a couple of hours as everything is concentrated in a few blocks. And this time, no extension, no huge commercial centre outside town.
As we are creeping north along this east coast of Australia, the gigantic size of it downed
on us. If you look at Australia on a map at home, in the US or in Europe, it looks like a big island but manageable. In fact, when I did my planning before leav
ing Norfolk, I thought that I would leave Sydney around March 15 (I did leave on March 16) and that I would leave from Darwin early May. Well, we are still a very long way from Darwin. There are 700 miles to cape York, then another 700 miles to Darwin. And we plan to stop in Townsville, Port Douglas, Cairns, Cooktown, CapeYork, Thursday Island, Gove, Darwin, then maybe continue along the Kimberley coast and leave Australia from Broome.
My revised timing now would plan for departure from Darwin around end of June. This is OK as I am in no hurry now to round cape of Good Hope in austral winter. I will still be back in Virginia by May/June 2011.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The sound of silence

After Curlew island which will remain one of the better anchorages that
we have visited so far in terms of calm and quietness, we sailed to
Refuge Bay on Sawfell Island where we found two motor boats and one
sailboat. Not much to say about the day. Sailing downwind, with the
genoa on a boom and the main wing on wing, we made good time and arrived
early at Refuge Bay.
Same thing the next day to go to Shaw Island. Actually at first, we
wanted to go to the Lindeman Club Med, but when we arrived, we could not
detect any sign of life and we decided instead to join the crowd at the
anchorage on Shaw Island. We would end up 8 boats by the late evening,
which is quite a crowd. Unfortunately, there is no contact between
boats. Maybe this will come if we end up meeting the same boats as we
cruise north to Cape York.
Arriving at the club Med anchorage, Olivier found both lines cut.
Strange since we had not detected any bite on the way. Olivier felt that
the steel lines got corroded and broke while trawling.
Today, we left the club Med to sail through some activity in terms of
other boats, resorts along the coast, aircraft, ferries, etc...I even
had to opportunity as we were passing those areas to connect to internet
and pick up my mail.
This will be short lived. By the time we passed Airlie Beach, supposed
to be a major centre of yachting, we got to Double Bay to find ourselves
alone, in total silence and calm. Still no fish, no bird, no nothing.
Even the butterflies have disappeared.
I long to get to a place where I can meet people and life. This will be
tomorrow in Bowen.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Island hopping and butterflies

Saturday morning, the weather is supposed to let up and we leave Rosslyn
Bay early morning, headed for Head Island creek 56 milles away. The
trade winds are well established and we can sail all the way under genoa
alone. Along the way, no fish, no birds, no boats, nobody. We get there
around 4 in the afternoon. There is a shoal right in the middle of the
entrance and we choose to use the north entrance, as advised by Alan
Lucas in his cruising guide. A little hot for my taste. We have to sail
very very close to a line of rocks lining the north side in very choppy
waters with strong currents. We deal with it OK, and once we are inside,
very quiet and very calm. We pass two sailboats anchored close to the
mouth of the river and sail up to the second affluent to find an
excellent anchorage in a little bay. Super anchorage and excellent quiet
We leave early next morning, with 47 miles to go to South Percy. Again,
no fish, except for a small hammer shark cruising slowly northward. No
birds either. But we are beginning to see butterflies, apparently flying
northward, coming from nowhere, and we wonder where they go, why, when,
where do they come from, what is the reason behind this behavior. No answer.
We get to South Percy again early afternoon, but we fail to find a
reasonably comfortable anchorage, despite visiting those recommended by
Alan Lucas. We end up anchored in front of the beach on the north west
side of the island, and the boat settles with stern to the wind, swell
on the beam and heading into the current. The roll is heavy and we spent
a miserable night there with the chain making all kinds of noise.
Unable to sleep well, we leave before daybreak, this time unfortunately
motoring, then motor sailing, but with only 34 miles to go.
As we get closer to Curlew Island, we see more and more of those
butterflies. And as we are rounding the northeastern corner of the
island, we pass a location on the cliff which is apparently the one spot
where they are all going. There is a dense stream of those butterflies
sailing across the boat as we pass the location, all going to the same
place while coming from slightly different directions. Very strange and
a mystery to us. If anybody has the answer to that, please let me know
at "".
This time, the anchorage is perfect. We are in front of the beach, but
the area is protected behind us by a drying shoal and the island having
a croissant shape, no swell of any significance can get in.
We anchored at noon, had lunch and took advantage of this calm and quiet
place to take a good nap to repair the lousy night of yesterday.
Tomorrow, we are headed for Refuge Bay in the Scawfell island, and maybe
we will see a few boats there. Right now, we are totally isolated with
no human activity in sight for the last two days.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rosslyn Bay, near Yeppoon

We worked hard at it but eventually we managed to slow down enough, sailing down from Lady Musgrave, so that we only had to heave to for half an hour arriving outside Rosslyn Bay. With just one third of the genoa, we clocked the boat at 8.4 knots ! But all that in comfort.
Along the way, Olivier managed to fish a bird.
Fortunately, it had got himself caught by the backside and although we might have hurt its pride, we could free him quickly enough that it did not seem to have suffered much damage.
After entering the marina, shortly before 7 a.m. , we took the first berth available and I checked on internet to find an email from the marina assigning us to a berth. We could get there at once and settle down without having to wait for the office to open.
Rosslyn bay is one of those marinas with floating pontoons, all the facilities, a courtesy car if we wanted and a bus running every forty minutes to the next town, Yeppoon, distant only by 8 kms (5 miles) with all the amenities that we might need, liquor store, supermarket, restaurants and bars.
Since we were stuck in there with bad weather, we took advantage of all those facitilies. We had lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Keppel Bay Sailing Club, with a ve
ry nice restaurant overlooking th
e beach and seving very nice food.
Not far from there, on either side of the road is a huge piece of land which has been chosen by hundreds of bats as their resting place during the day. It's a very strange sight, at least for me, it is the first time that I see such a thing.
Other than that, Yeppoon is a nice little town, with everything within walking distance once you are in town.
The weather took its sw
eet time to improve, but we are told that tomorrow might be a good day to leave, so we will head for Island Head creek and then continue island hopping for a week until we reach Bowen, our next stop in a marina.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lady Musgrave

After so many days motoring, we can't complain about too much wind, but the problem remains to slow down enough so as to arrive in daylight. This was again the case going to Lady Musgrave and we had to heave to for more than an hour as we were in sight of the lighthouse of the Island way before daybreak.
However, we found the entry into the lagoon much easier than anticipated. I was thinking lagoon of 8 or 9 feet depth like in the Bahamas, but we had more then 25 feet all the way to the anchorage and very little worries about coral heads.
I did not feel very comfortable at anchor with winds steadily over 25 knots with gusts at 30. But the holding was excellent, and we never moved one inch, since the wind was always same direction and the
re was no swinging around the
During the day, Olivier and Hugue went ashore, first to visit the island and then try and do some snorkeling. I stayed on the boat, just in case, but also because I suspected that there was not very much to see that I have not already seen in the Bahamas or in Oman. I was right as Olivier and Hugue confirmed on their way back.
We left as planned on Sunday at noon, in the middle of a squall and with a wind still between 20/25 and gusts at 30, but right behind us.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bundaberg rum

We had left Midtown marina on Wednesday morning. At first we wanted to fuel up at 8, but the fuel dock was taken by a fishing boat, so we just waited for the office of the marina to open so that we could surrender the keys to the toilets et recover our 100 dollars deposit in cash and then left. We went to Port Bundaberg marina, just one mile up the mouth of the river, free of any restrictions due to the tide, waiting for an hypothetical improvement in the weather that never materialized.

On Thursday, we took the shuttle from the marina to go and visit the Bundaberg Rum distillery, supposedly famous in all Australia. This was merely a disappointment. The visit is expensive, at 25 dollars, and there is very little to be seen, apart from a few pipes, tanks and pumps. The visit is done in a very restricted way with tons of rules that include surrendering your camera, wallet, phone, etc... before the visit. And even though there is very little to visit, even less is shown to visitors. This rum, unlike rum Barbancourt, is made out of molasses which is fermented and then di

stilled, in a very industrial manner with lots of chemical involved. The taste is very similar to that of whisky but the price is more to do with gold, at 45 dollars for the lowest grade.

After the visit, we took a cab to go to the commercial centre of Bundaberg and we realized that the city is a lot larger than we first thought. What we had seen was the "old" Bundaberg (maybe 150 years), but the city has expanded the american way towards the west with lots of businesses, commercial centres and fast food joints.

We then returned by bus to the marina.

Friday, we fuelled up at the marina, had lunch and a nap and left in a strong squall at 5:00 p.m. for Lady Musgrave Island. All the way, we had a well established trade wind from the SE at 20 to 25 knots with gusts at 30 knots and we had a hard time slowing down to arrive at the lagoon after daylight.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hervey Bay and Bundaberg

Hugues and Laura, friends of Olivier, and living like Olivier in the same area of France (Savoie) happen to be bicycling across Australia from Sydney to Darwin on a tandem. Incredible coincidence ! We made contact with them and were able to be at the same time at the same place and they joined us in Urangan with tandem, bob trailer and luggage.
For the trip up Hervey Bay to Bundaberg, we knew it was going to be, again, only motoring, so we put the tandem on deck and left o
n Sunday to get at the entrance of the Burnett River at least two hours after low tide and sail up to Bundaberg. All that was done, again without touching bottom although the chart was showing very low depth.
It so happens that they have had floods recently and the river was fuller than usual.
Once up in front of the mid-town marina, it took up to an hour before the staff could make on spot a
vailable for us. Eventually, we settled in around 5 p.m., ready to enjoy our time here.
So, next morning, we wandered intown, and I must say, not much to be seen. It is a small town, with all the shops and businesses inside no more than ten blocks by three blocks. All the necessities are there, but not much to do. The only point of inte
rest is the rhum distillerie, but the day we had chosen to visit, it rained all day and we did not go. However, we found a shop with diving and fishing equipment and I bought a pair of fl
ippers in preparation for Lady Musgrave island and Olivier bought an underwater camera mounted on a face mask.
That rain was the signal of a major change in the weather with the return of the trade winds and more delay for us. To take the tide on the river out of the equation, we sailed down to Port Bundaberg marina and we will wait until Friday night to sail to Lady Musg
rave island with a weather decent enough to enjoy snorkeling in the lagoon. Laura is not very enthusiastic about choppy seas and sailing to an island, so she will wait in a camping area with the tandem, the bob trailer and the tent.
Today, being in a marin
a in the middle of nowhere, Olivier got me again to walk to the village next door and wa
lk back to the marina via a different route. Another 8 kms walking to see Burnett Heads, which has a post office, a general st
ore, two motels and a restaurant, and as always a hairdresser. Nice walk, we even saw two kangourous and lots of big birds.
Tomorrow, we will tray and take a bus to Bundaberg to visit the rhum distillerie.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tin Can Bay to Hervey Bay

These were 2 days of intense fun. The first one, although it was a very long day at the office (12 hours), saw us sail from Tin Can Bay to Hervey Bay by way of the Great Sandy Straits, between Fraser Island and the continent.
We had left at 6 in the morning, i.e. 4 hours before low tide, as there was a very shallow point in the first 100
yeards of the journey. But after that, the name of the game was to waste as much time as possible s
o as to present ourselves at the shallow part, shortly before reaching the mouth of the Mary River, at high tide. Everybody has told us that we would not be able to go through at any other time than high tide.
Well, we could not slow down enough, low tide being at 11:15 a.m., and we ended up going through the shallowest point basically at low tide. Guess what ! I did not even touch ! I need 5'2" and we
had 6'1", almost a full foot to spare. As a result, we reached the halfway point at lunch time and had enough time in our hands to keep going when we were planning to anchor there and wait for the next morning to keep going. So, we arrived at the Hervey Bay marina just as the office was closing, around 5 p.m.
We had wondered whether to go up the Mary River to Maryborough, but decided that it was not worth the detour and instead chose to go u
p there by bus from Urangan.
What a day ! We had been told that Thursday was the day of the week when they had their great heritage street market, and we left at 7:00, well prepared with shopping bags.
At first, I was bewildered by the scenery. I though that we had at last arrived in the deep australia, and in fact, driving through Hervey Bay, I felt that we could as well be travelling through Miami. Lots of huge co
mmercial centres, Macdonalds, KFCs and the like.
Fortunately, gradually the landscape became more of r
ural Australia, and by the time we reached Maryborough, we were in a different country. At first, I thought that we had gone terribly wrong and that we were going to waste our time. The great heritage street market was a small market in a 50 yards long street, and nothing else. So we packed away the shopping bags but kept going anyway, intent of visiting the whole place.
Maryborough is a very historic place for Australia. It was created in 1865 and was for a long time the most important immigration port of the East coast after Sydney. It almost became the capital of Queensland. It is, as a side comment, the birth place of Mary Poppins. And it has more museum per square mile than bistros in France. We visited a few of them, went through the park and walked along the track of the tourist train, to arrive at the small marina on the river where we could have been anchored. Olivier ordered a beer, which he was served (it was 9:45 a.m.) and then the beer was promply withdrawn as licensed bars cannot serve alcohol before 10:00 a.m. And the beer was returned at 10.
Before boarding the bus, we had a last laugh with ladies performing indian belly dances in front of city hall !
We then returned to Harvey Bay and luckily through a different route so that we visited the whole of Harvey Bay in one bus ride.
We had lunch at the Hervey Bay boat club, very strange huge place, with restaurant, bar, dancing lounge, casino, etc....
We then took a nap on Papy Jovial before going out again, this time to find a camping equipment store as we were looking for mosquito net in preparation for our passage through Thursday Island and Cape York, where we were told that they were cases of
malaria and dengue fever. We never found the place as we had been given the wrong information. We will try again tomorrow.
After quite a long walk, we decided that have a beer at the marina at one of the bars on the waterfront. At first, we were told to sit at the tables that were not set for dinner if we only wanted to drink. We we
did and were served the beer. But then, the owner of the place came rushing and made us move by about 4 feet, so that we would be inside the area where consumption of alcohol was permitted ! Australia is not short of rules and regulation !
We will probably wait until Sunday to leave this place as the wind is from the northerly direction and I am tired of motoring.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mooloolaba - Tin Can Bay

Mooloolaba is a beach resort, a surfing center, a fishing harbour, a marina, and then some. Very busy, lots of tourists, but a very pleasant atmosphere of people enjoying their vacation. One thing, which is a general observation for Australia, everything is very clean. No trash on the ground, lots of public toilets which are all clean and in well maintained. everything looks neat and tidy.
One of the consequences, is that there are lots of rules and interdictions. Don't do this, don't do that, or e
lse . . .
But the result is there, it makes the place all the more enjoyable.
We spent practically the whole Easter Week-end in Mooloolaba and had a great time. Walking, shopping, having a drink on a deck by the side of the river, enjoying other
people who are all cheerful and welcoming. In fact, we had not tied up the first mooring line when we arrived that we were already invited for drinks on the boat next door.
Having done everything that we needed to do, repair a faulty zipper on the bimini, refill a gas bottle, do
some provisionning, we decided to leave on Monday night to arrive at the Wide Bay bar late morning for the beginning of the rising tide.
Well for the first time, we could not slow Papy Jovial enough and we had to heave to on arrival to wait for the tide. In fact, the bar turned out to be very well behaved and although it took a long time to get through, we had no real problem and we got into the Tin Can Bay marina by late morning.
Tin Can Bay feels like a very small town, deep in the back country of Australia. We went to the only pub in the town and it really looked like very very local.
Again, very clean town, few shops to cover the essential, nice marina with floating docks, clean restrooms and laundry, ans wifi available.
However, it is so small that one afternoon was all it took to cover the whole place, and we will leave tomorrow morning to try and get close enough to Fraser Island to visit.

Friday, April 2, 2010

From Yamba to Mooloolaba

We enjoyed Yamba, small town mostly dedicated to tourism, but set in a beautiful scenery on the bank of the Clarence River.
We left late in the afternoon as we wanted to get to the entrance of the Gold Coast Seaway in the morning. As has been the case almost every day so far, we motored all the way, with the automatic pilot taking a nap from time to time whenever it felt that we were working it too much. We would then take the helm for a while and put it back on auto. With no wind, Firmin was of no use as it would not know where to go.
The Gold Coast wants to loo
k like Florida. As far as ugly skyscrapers is concerned, they have succee
ded. The seaway itself feels like a mix of Florida Waterway and North Carolina between Morehead City and Norfolk.
We entered the Seaway late morning, with no bar to speak of, an
d went to anchor in the marine stadium. It was a quiet anchorage although there were quite a few other boats there. In the afternoon, Des, a scot turned aussie, came and offered us some crabs that he had caught and cooked. Since we had had a late lunch and it was early in the afternoon, I only took a small bite, but enough to see that these crabs were very tasty and good.
Next morning, we left at 7h30, since we had an appointment to pick up Georges at the Sovereign Islands. Georges lives in Coochiemuddlo Island and was going to share his experience of the seaway
with us.
We got there at 8:15, but by 8:45, still not seeing anybody, I called him on the phone, only to find out that Queensland does not have a Daylight Saving Time and we were one hour early.
Anyway, at 8:30 Queensland time, Georges arrived and we sailed up the seaway to Coochiemuddlo Island where Georges lives. We had lunch on Papy Jovial before Georges went home, planning to pick us up for dinner at 5 p.m., and Oli
vier and Debbie went to Victoria Point with the dinghy to do some shopping.
At 5, we all went ashore and Georges and Lynne took us around the island (500 people live there) before taking us to his house for dinner. Nice house with lots of artifacts from their travels in the nearby Asia.
After a late night and a short sleep, up early. Debbie was leaving us to rejoin her friend Jacques who had travelled up from Sydney and go camping for a few days before returning to Sydney.
Olivier and I left late morning headed to Moreton Island at an anchorage called Tangalooma, with wrecks deposited on the bank in front of the place, in the hope of creating an emergency harbour. We had a lovely sail, almost the first one since we left Sydney and anchored close to the wrecks. Olivier took the dinghy to do some photos of the wrecks and the small settlement with a holiday resort..
The anchorage is nice for the day, but incomfortable at night. We woke up very early and were off to Mooloolaba at 6:00 a.m.
This time, we had following winds, but not enough and we motor sailed to Mooloolabe were we arrived early afternoon, just before closing time for the marina. It is Good Friday, and everything closes at 2:00 p.m.
Warren joined us just as we were sitting down for dinner, with the new step down transformer, the new US flag and the mail. We spent a very pleasant evening, taking infos from him on the trip up north, and he sharing with us his dreams of cruising Europe on a 40 foot cat after he retires in 2 years time.
We will stay here until Tuesday. We have to repair the bimini, or rather just replace a failed zipper, do some shopping, visit the place and the local pubs and enjoy the Easter Week-End.