Sunday, October 6, 2019

Exploring Moreton Island with Friends

It is just the start of spring here, and we plan to hang out around the Brisbane area until it gets warmer. Then we will go south towards Sydney and Tasmania. This plan works out well with waiting three weeks for our new sail to be made and friends flying in and out of Brisbane for visits. There is a big bay here (Moreton Bay) and some lovely islands (Moreton and North Stradbroke) to explore.

Coincidentally, our friends Ollie and Linda from Big White Ski Resort in BC, Canada, happen to be in Brisbane visiting friends and family. They came out to see us and take a look at the boat. We had a lovely lunch and catch-up with them. The next day, Beth, who we met during our second season skiing in Japan, arrived for a week. We did the local tourist highlight of strolling along Bee Gee’s Way, a short laneway full of Bee Gee memorabilia, statues, photos and music in Redcliffe.

The winds were predicted to turn during the night, so we had a day-sail to Lucinda Bay on Moreton Island for lunch. With the winds picking up from the north, we had a romping sail south, with a few dolphins, to Manly, just south of Brisbane. We pulled into the Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club and had a high-wind, high tension docking experience. It is frustrating when marina staff are inexperienced and let go of the aft spring line and pull the bow line in hard. Luckily we just bumped the dock lightly.

Beth took a turn steering the boat

Malcolm and Beth at the bow on the way to Moreton Island

The winds were crazy overnight, but started to settle in from the south by morning. We left the marina and had a very fast sail to the NW end of Moreton Island and anchored at Bulwer for the night. The next day, Beth and Dina set off in the dinghy to explore the wreck on the beach and hike to the lighthouse on the NE tip of the island. They were sidetracked by a couple of humpback whales lazily swimming through the bay. After following along with the whales for a while, they turned the dinghy back towards to the beach. They walked a few hours in the hot sun and deep sand before realising they were barely a quarter of the distance to the lighthouse, so they hitchhiked back to the beach.

The anchorage at Bulwer was a bit rolly so we moved about 5 nautical miles south to Tangaloma and planned to spend a few nights. In the morning, Beth took out the paddleboard and then Malcolm took her for her first snorkel (ever!) around the 300 metre line of wrecks just off the beach, Dina found a great hike up the sandy island, through forest, to a great view of the expanse of sand dunes inland.

Dinghy sailors out enjoying the wind
We sailed back to Newport Marina on the Friday as Beth was leaving Saturday morning. The wind was back from the north and a bit strong. It was a pretty quick trip and we should have reduced the amount of sail we had up, but it was too much fun and we were almost there by the time the wind was too strong. We had a nice dinner with Beth and then got a message from our snowboarding friends, Natasha and Dane (who we thought were arriving the next evening – Saturday - after their season in New Zealand). They had landed in Brisbane and would be at the boat in an hour! Whoa, what?! There had been a bit of a mix up but luckily we had come into port to drop Beth off. It all worked out fine and the five of us had a lovely evening onboard Friday night!

The majority of anchorages in Moreton Bay are good for easterly or westerly winds. There are one or two good anchorages for southerly winds and one or two good for northerly, but no anchorages that offer good, all around wind protection. For the first few days of Natasha and Dane’s visit, the winds were switching direction nightly. We spent Saturday provisioning and Sunday walking along the Scarborough peninsula before sailing to Moreton Island on Monday.

Natasha and Dane relaxing on the sail to Moreton Island
We anchored between Big Sandhill and Little Sandhill on the southern tip of Moreton Island. The weather wasn’t great, but they were able to explore the mangroves and see rays and turtles. We then sailed around Peel Island to Dunwich on the northwest side of North Stradbroke Island. We grabbed a mooring ball, with the nice new boat hook, and Dane and Tash made plans with the local surf school for the next couple of days. While they surfed, we enjoyed Cylinder Beach, Deadman’s Beach and North Gorge Point Lookout. Along the gorge walk, we saw lots of birds, whales, rays, turtles, dolphins and finally, koalas! That's the day Malcolm left the fancy camera on the boat.


Kangaroo just hanging out near the bus stop

North Stradbroke Island is Koala friendly.

Our last day in the bay, after a calm, windless morning, a cold front came through and the wind picked up to 25 knots from the south in the afternoon. Good as Gold was rocking and rolling in the waves. Malcolm checked the weather twice to confirm it’d be dying down and the anchorage would be comfortable by 10pm. The four of us were inside having a rousing game of Codenames, when Malcolm heard a whistle and shout.

We went on deck to see a couple in a small, wave-swept dinghy, being pushed towards the rocks. Malcolm jumped in our dinghy to rescue them. They had come within 20 feet of the rocks when Malcolm tied their dinghy to Tubby, making sure the lines wouldn’t get caught in Tubby’s propeller - good thing Malcolm is fast with those knots! Although Tubby is a tough dinghy, his 3.3 horsepower motor was struggling trying to tow another boat against the 2-3 foot waves. Malcolm suspected that Tubby was low on fuel, so he aimed for Good as Gold which was closest. On VHF channel 16, Dina asked if anyone with a larger dinghy in the anchorage could assist the dinghy in need. Another sailor responded, jumped into his dinghy, swiftly came over to Good as Gold and just as swiftly ran out of fuel and started drifting towards the rocks.

Having tied the first rescued dinghy to Good as Gold, Malcolm took Tubby out to rescue the second dinghy and towed it back to our boat. Dina placed another call on the VHF and called the local Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR). The waves were large, coming in quick succession and the boats where these rescued people needed to go were a significant distance upwind from Good as Gold. A third sailor came out and towed the two dinghies back to their boats one after the other. Once we saw that the third dinghy was safely back to its boat, Dina called the VMR and they turned back. Dane and Tash thought it was all quite exciting!

The wind died down to complete calm that evening, just after dark, and it stayed down the next day. We motored a few hours from Dunwich to Manly, stopping a few times to watch dolphins frolicking around the boat. We docked at Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club, this time calmly and quietly, said goodbye to Natasha and Dane and realised our next guest, arriving in November, is yet another friend from the ski and snowboarding industry!

Friday, September 20, 2019

South Towards Brisbane

We arrived at Double Island Point in the mid afternoon. Like a lot of the Australian coast so far, the coast is a sandy beach. It appeared as though a couple of surfing schools arrived about the same time as we did. We heard that under the right conditions, people can ride the wave coming in from the point for about two kilometres. It is some sort of protected park here, so people have to drive in a ways to get here. We didn't bother going ashore and had a restful evening. In the morning we saw a small pod of dolphins nearby. They must have been hunting because they stayed at about the same spot and just kept diving.
Surfing students

Morning dolphins
The weather was cooperating so we continued south and sailed for a few hours to Noosa. Most sailors do not stop at Noosa as it is known for being a rolly anchorage with big waves. Surfers, on the other hand, love it. The headland and cliffs of Noosa are home to the Noosa National Park which is (supposedly) home to koalas. We arrived in the afternoon, went around the shark nets and dropped the anchor. We could not take Tubby ashore due to the large waves breaking on the sandy beach and it was quite rolly. The second day was the same, plus wind and rain, and the third day we decided to continue south to Mooloolaba. In Mooloolaba we could get the rigging inspected and perhaps rent a car to head back to Noosa to see the koalas.
Another sandy Australian beach
We entered the river at Mooloolaba and anchored in the “Duck Pond” for the night. The entire river basin has been built into canals so people can buy waterfront homes. Many of these homes have docks out front with their own boats. We motored up one of the canals to the Kawana Marina and once at the dock we had the rig inspected by the team at Colin Quin Rigging and Sailmaking. After almost 6 years of good use, the report was not too bad! We had a deflector placed on the top of the furling unit to avoid twisting the genoa halyard around the forestay when we furl/unfurl the genoa, replaced the mainsail halyard sheave, the forestay pin and the 4 lower shrouds (3 of the 4 had a broken wire). The Colin Quin team were professional, agile, personable and were wonderful at sharing their considerable knowledge.
Rigging inspection
The next morning we started the engine to motor back to anchor in the Duck Pond when the throttle stuck in neutral. Malcolm shut off the engine, Dina jumped back aboard, and after 15 minutes of investigation we discovered the internal mechanism was jammed. So we grabbed the wallet and walked to Whitworths, the local chandlery. Incredibly, they sold the exact same throttle mechanism. We returned to the boat and in about 40 minutes, Malcolm had swapped out the old for the new! It is shocking that the part hasn't been modified in 30 years!

The next morning we left the marina, anchored back in the Duck Pond and spent the next 3 weeks there. We tackled small boat projects (like varnishing), had the repairs done on the rigging, went to the beach and waited for the winds to come from the north so we could comfortably sail downwind, south towards Brisbane.
Tubby gets a set of wheels

Before varnishing
After varnishing

One day, we took the bus to Noosa and walked the entirety of the 23 square kilometres of the national park and didn't see a single koala! Our necks were so sore from looking up into the trees all day that we didn't notice how tired our legs were.
We saw birds, but no Koalas

Beach time
Mooloolaba Beach
After exploring Noosa, the beaches at Caloundra, Buddina, Alexandra and Mooloolaba, the winds came from the north and we had a lovely downwind sail to Bongaree, a town on the north side of Deception Bay. We saw some humpback whales along the way and lots of very loud birds in Bongaree.  Deception Bay also had some large, dinner plate sized, blue jellyfish. They’re apparently a sign of spring and are harmless. We had some fun picking up the mooring in Bongaree as we didn't have a boat hook. Between the two of us, we finally grabbed the rope attached to the mooring using the handle end of the SUP paddle!
Big blue jellyfish

We spent one night on the mooring in Bongaree and motored across to the south side of the very shallow Deception Bay to Newport Marina, close to Scarborough and Redcliffe, just north of Brisbane. One of the first things we did when we arrived at the marina in Newport was purchase a boat hook! We had Gary Saxby of UK Sails come to measure the boat for a new genoa sail and to make a deck bag for the solent sail. He would have it ready in about three weeks, which worked out well as we had guests flying into and out of Brisbane.
Guestroom is ready

Monday, August 19, 2019

Hervey Bay, Fraser Island, Great Sandy Straits

We left Bundaberg for the world’s largest sand island and UNESCO World Heritage site, Fraser Island. We upped anchor at 6:30 am and had a lovely beam reach from 7 am until we anchored in Platypus Bay at 4 pm. The day was sunny but it started off cold so we wore hoodies and jackets and we searched the boat trying to find where we had stored the sailing gloves! Between August and November, the shallow waters (maximum depths of 36 metres) of Hervey Bay are home to migrating humpback whales and within an hour of setting sail, we came upon two breaching whales. Then we spotted two pink and grey birds hitching a ride on the backstay. One flew off and the other made itself comfortable on the wind generator (it was tied off) for the entire 6 hour sail to Fraser Island. A quick look in the, Birds of Australia, book identified the bird as a Galah. They aren’t sea birds, so we think they got blown offshore by the wind and were struggling to fly back to land.

As we dropped the sails to anchor, another whale and some dolphins passed close by, the temperature had warmed up and we were thrilled to be sailing after so long ashore! Fraser Island is a strange mix of sand dunes, sand cliffs, tropical forests and freshwater lakes that host some 230 species of birds. Platypus Bay is a 25 kilometre crescent of white sand beach on the western side of Fraser Island. We anchored off of Triangle Cliffs, an area where the sand reaches up to almost 13 metres from the beach. Some of the higher dunes on Fraser Island reach 260 metres.
Dina heading up the dune

Dina 'splashing' the sand as she hops down the dune.

After climbing the sand dune we walked along the beach for about an hour before returning to the boat. We could see one other boat anchored a few miles north of us, but we had this whole section of the beach to ourselves. We enjoyed the wildlife and the quiet.
Sand balls from a Bubbler crab
Empty Beach on Fraser Island

Beach flower

A few days later we motored further south along Platypus Bay to Arch Cliffs. We took our time and spent an hour watching a couple of whales, along with a large tour boat and 10 kayakers. A turtle kept its eye on us as well. Later that evening, as we enjoyed the sunset, two whales swam by. Then in the morning, we heard a very loud breath and rushed outside to see two more whales.
Whale in Hervey Bay

We moved further south along Fraser Island to Moon Point, the northern entrance to the Great Sandy Strait – about 40 miles of the shallow waterways separating Fraser Island from the rest of Australia. From here, until we sailed back into the open ocean at Wide Bay Bar, our boat speed was usually more than the depth underneath the boat. Initially, it felt unsafe motoring at 5 knots in 4 metres of water, but the depths are consistent and the bottom is all sand, so it soon felt normal.

At Moon Point, we anchored in about 4 metres of water and watched it drop to 2.4, 2.3 and then 2.2 metres at low tide. Our boat draws 1.85 metres, which means there was less than half a metre between our boat and the sandy bottom! Our initial anxiety over depth was rewarded with a lively dugong hanging out near the boat.

We continued south and anchored off cruiser-friendly Kingfisher Bay Resort. A dugong grazed near the boat, showing its tail regularly, for a couple of days. One evening we watched a dingo explore the beach. We stretched our legs on a forest path around the resort and had lovely views of Good as Gold at anchor and of the Great Sandy Strait.
Good as Gold anchored off Kingfisher resort

View of the Great Sandy Straits

We followed another boat south to Garry’s Anchorage and even radioed a sailboat we could see on AIS to ask for waypoints as we were questioning whether there was enough depth for us to enter the anchorage. There are a lot of powerboats and catamarans in this area of Australia and with the shallow waters, we can understand why! A local sailboat, Isabella, directed us to an anchoring “hole” of 5 metres and we settled in with several other boats. With the wind up, we decided not to go ashore, but we were kept entertained by several turtles and dugongs. We found out the next day that salties (Australian saltwater crocodiles) have been spotted in the anchorage and there was a sign on the beach suggesting people keep small dogs out of the water! Yikes!

We next moved on to anchor at Pelican Bay, just before the Wide Bay Bar at the south end of Fraser Island. Not only were there pelicans, but dolphins also came into the anchorage. In this part of Australia, there are a lot of bar crossings, where an outbound river meets up against the prevailing wind and the inbound tide to create some shallows that can be quite treacherous with crazy wave action in the wrong conditions. The Wide Bay Bar is supposed to be one of the worst. The next morning, armed with fresh waypoints from the local marine rescue organisation, and proper timing of the tidal flow, we motored across the bar without an issue. With light winds we sailed the short distance to Double Island Point and anchored for the night.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Returning to the boat in Australia

Everything went well in Canada, Malcolm even did a ski season again at Big White and Dina picked up a one-year contract. After 18 months, Malcolm flew to Australia to start getting Good as Gold ready for more cruising. When he arrived in Bundaberg, he quickly made plans to get a new coat of bottom paint and have the boat put back in the water. It has to be said that a lot of dust and dirt can accumulate over 18 months, so there was a lot of cleaning to do inside and out.
Getting ready for new paint
All ready for the water with NEW PAINT!

Good as Gold on the dock at Bundaberg Port Marina

After so many years of use, the anchor and chain needed to be re-galvanized. This provides a nice coating of zinc to help prevent corrosion. Malcolm sent the anchor off to a shop in town, but the chain was too corroded so we ended up purchasing a new one. The new chain needed to be marked at various lengths so we would know how much we are putting out while anchoring. Instead of the usual idea of using colour paint (which wears off) or cable ties (they break off), it was the perfect time to try tying on short pieces of coloured, really durable, line.
Corroded anchor chain, not worth saving

Coloured spectra lines on the new chain (4 yellow = 40m)

Wow, that anchor looks new!

By the time Dina arrived, 4 weeks after Malcolm, the boat was in reasonable living condition. It was now time to tackle lots of little jobs that needed to be done, just basic upkeep like any home. Some of these jobs were simple maintenance items and some were new improvements.
Malcolm made this for cleaning the track the headsail slides into.

Time for new fire extinguishers, new flares and a new liferaft (ours was 30 years old)

Malcolm up the mast running some lines.

Malcolm has ALWAYS BEEN ANNOYED with the storage space we call “The Pantry”. IT IS TOO TALL AND NOTHING SITS IN IT PROPERLY!!!!! SO he made some shelves and Dina painted them. Malcolm has also BEEN ANNOYED BY THE FREEZER COMPARTMENT for pretty much the same reason, so new shelves were made for it too. Along the way, Dina’s closet got some shelves.
New shelves! 
New faucet too

The only big issue we had was trying to get the generator started. After lots of investigation, it looked like we needed to spend a good bit of money to repair it. We have way more than enough power from our solar panels, and have almost never used the generator in the 9 years we’ve owned the boat. So instead of fixing it, we took it out. Now there is lots of room in the engine compartment to access the various parts of the engine. There was also room to get at the ceiling and add some LED lights. These two things pleased us more than getting the generator running ever would have!
So much space without the generator

After six weeks of all these little projects it was finally time to get going. We ordered a bunch of provisions from a large grocery chain and had them delivered right to the marina.

Good thing we have those shelves to hold all this food
All clean and ship-shape
The boat had been sitting at the dock this whole time, but that was okay because of the nice new bottom paint. The dinghy, however, needed to have all the growth cleaned off. We motored over to a nearby beach and spent an hour scraping everything off Tubby’s hull.
Pretty shaggy with all that growth
Nice and clean

After that we returned to the boat and finally left the dock . We anchored at the mouth of the river and were ready to go.
Sunset at the anchorage