Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Early start for Upstart

Sunrise out from Cape Cleveland
Tuesday 24th May 2011

I'm starting to get suspicious of a gloriously calm sea - but more on that later.
After studying every weather prediction site we could find, we decided to set sail from Magnetic Island yesterday for Cape Bowling Green or, if all went well, a further 35 nautical miles to Cape Upstart. The forecast gave us hope of travelling for three or four days down to the Whitsundays - or at least to the Gloucester Passage, south of Bowen.
We were both awake just after 4am and had lifted anchor and left the bay by around 4.30am - so much for ``we'll never sail at night!''. However we were both comfortable knowing sunrise was just a couple of hours away. It certainly made the big ships outside Townsville harbour easy to see as we glided past. The swell was still around 2 metres but wasn't breaking white caps, and the wind came off the coast at around 10 to 12 knots, allowing us to put the head sail up and motor sail at close to 6 knots. By dawn we were off Cape Cleveland, and at around 11.30am we had rounded Cape Bowling Green, headed for Upstart.
Bowling Green looks such a desolate place to stop. It's a seemingly endless sandbar with little vegetation. In fine weather anchoring would be fine, I imagine, but given the radical change in conditions at 3am this morning, I'm glad we were here not there. Again, more later.
Turning more southward towards Upstart gave us less swell to contend with and a friendly tide gave us an extra knot in the latter stages. We were in the bay around 5pm.
Anchoring proved a little tricky and we moved three times before we were happy the anchor was lodged.

Though exhausted, we still enjoyed a beautiful sunset and the sound of turtles surfacing around us in that aforementioned `gloriously calm sea'.
Sleep didn't come easily despite the long day. First night anchor worries always impinge.
At 3am we were woken by the violent thrusting of the boat and the sound of rain and wind howling through.
Where did this come from? Certainly wasn't on any of the weather prediction sites - and still isn't.
The BOM radar showed this freaky little weather system over the Cape so guess that's it. From then till dawn, we kept anchor watch as well as having the anchor alarm on.
It made us recall that silky smooth sea out from Orpheus Island that was followed by a raging storm and nine days of high winds and swell.
Before that was the wonderful trip to Dunk Island (pre cyclone), anchoring in a gentle swell that was soon rearing up and bucking us all over the place.
Here at Upstart we're still rocking about in 25 knot southerlies and waves breaking over the front of the boat - but there's nowhere else to go so looks like we sit it out, thankful we didn't decide to take an overnight break at Cape Bowling Green which is so much more exposed.

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