Sports and Smoke on the way to Sydney

After our skiing friends left, we spent some time around Brisbane doing more boat jobs. The Rainman brand watermaker we purchased needed to be installed, with plumbing attachments for seawater and the freshwater produced, electrical attachments and a safe mounting location for all the pumps and other components.
Plumbing parts for the watermaker

Watermaker pump installed in the engine room

Figuring out how to configure the control panel 

The wood working around the sea berth was finally addressed  and we took delivery of our new genoa sail and solent sailbag.

New sailcover

Woodwork - Before

All these jobs were finished in time to welcome our friend, Maryse, at the start of November. We welcomed Maryse to Australia with some kangaroo kebabs on the BBQ! Kangaroo meat.

Kangaroo meat at the supermarket
Before leaving we went to check out the Lone Tree Koala Refuge and some Aboriginal drawings.


Rainbow Lorikeet


Kangaroos enjoying the shade


Cassowary - look at those feet

Strange tourist

Aboriginal drawings

Aboriginal drawing of a snake

There aren’t many great anchorages in the Brisbane area, but with some north winds we anchored for a night in one of the good ones on the south side of Peel island. The forecast for the next day was for a lot of wind from the west, so we took the boat south and hid from 30 knot winds between Lamb and Karragarra islands. The plan was to head out the next day, when the wind would be okay, and motor through all the shallow mangrove-lined channels to the Gold Coast. This area had lots of herons and other impressive birds, and a few shallow patches (depth of 2.6 metres at times!) to provide some interest. It also seemed like a good way to introduce Maryse to life aboard. 

Maryse at the helm

We spent one night anchored off the town of Jacob’s Well before entering Southport and anchoring on the outside of Marine stadium anchorage, which is locally known as Bum’s Bay. Southport is the activity centre of the Gold Coast and we were impressed by the tourist helicopters, jetskis and race-style power boats. We weren’t thrilled with the noise and unimpressed with how choppy the anchorage got with all that activity during the day. 

The Gold Coast has some beautiful beaches, which we enjoyed, and a lot of tourist activities. Maryse spent one day at an Introductory Scuba outing, and she took a few kiteboarding lessons. 

Maryse learning to kiteboard

Maryse tethered to her instructor

Maryse and the kite

Dina and Maryse also spent an afternoon taking surfing lessons.

Start of the surf lesson

Maryse enjoying the surfing

Dina in the surf lesson

Maryse falling of the surfboard

End of surf lesson

Being anchored is nice, but the noise, crowds and turbulence at this anchorage wasn’t fun. Marinas are a place to avoid the commotion and offer the advantage of laundry facilities and a safer place to leave the boat for a full day. Therefore we took a berth at Mariner’s Cove Marina in Southport for a few nights. From there, we left early one morning on a bus to the nearby town of Nerang to go mountain biking. We rented mountain bikes and tackled the Nerang forest.

Malcolm and Dina rented e-bikes, more for the novelty then for the necessity, although we both used the “turbo” mode on a couple of uphill sections! The e-bikes are quite heavy, about 23 kilos, much heavier then a regular mountain bike and we certainly felt it on the downhill sections. Dina fell a couple of times and had some scraped and bruised badges of honour to show for her effort. 

Towards the end of the ride, we split up so Maryse could ride some of the difficult tracks. Malcolm and Dina headed for the scenic easy trails, but quickly got lost in the forest. We ended up on the edge of the forest and approached a nearby house to ask for directions. The route back to the bike shop was on real roads. As a die-hard road cyclist, this was Malcolm’s favourite part of the ride!

Mountain biking

Dina's cycling injury

Near the end of Maryse’s two week visit, she asked to extend and we whole-heartily agreed! After kite-surfing, surfing, mountain biking, hiking and opal shopping, we still needed to take Maryse sailing! All we had done was motor down from Brisbane to Soutport. We hoped to get her all the way to Sydney, but we all understood it would depend on the weather and if she’d be sea sick, as this was going to be open ocean sailing. Conditions were great for a short two hour sail, on a lovely beam reach, from Southport to the Tweed River. We spent three days exploring the beaches there, watching flying foxes, hiking and even shopping – we bought a wall mounted television!.

The next stop on the southbound journey was a longer sail, but Maryse agreed to try it. We left the Tweed river before noon, had a lovely afternoon sail, continued to sail through the night and approached Coff’s Harbour a little after dawn. Maryse did just fine, and was impressed with the phosphorescence in the gentle swell out in the ocean. There were several other boats sailing nearby that we could see on AIS. 

There were a lot of bush fires in New South Wales at this time, and the smoke haze was incredibly bad as we neared Coff’s Harbour. We were about 1.5 nautical miles from land and could not see anything! Slowly the shape of Mutton Bird Island, a large hill at the entrance to Coff’s Harbour, appeared as we approached the entrance. By 10am we were on the dock and thought it best to take it easy (Maryse didn’t sleep well at sea) and to avoid the smoke (it did irritate eyes and throats). 

We walked up Mutton Bird Island, where the Mutton Birds nest. It was early in the evening and the birds had not returned to their nests for the night. The views of the ocean and the town were hazy due to the bush fire smoke. The town was eerily quiet due to lack of tourism again due to the nearby fires. The next evening, after going to the local cinema, Maryse and Dina went up the hill after dark and we rewarded with lots of loudly cooing and returning Mutton Birds. 

Marsye on Muttonbird Island

Smokey mainland view from Muttonbird Island

The weather wasn’t cooperating for a comfortable sail further south, so we said goodbye to Maryse as she boarded a train to spend her last three days surfing on Bondi Beach and exploring Sydney. The three weeks had flown by!