Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Toughen up Princess

After recently reading the intrepid adventurers of sea and air of Francis Chichester, `The Lonely Sea and The Sky', followed by Robin Knox-Johnson's `A World of My Own',  I foolishly said I would never again complain about the weather on the east coast.
Those lone sailors endured through some horrific conditions and their resilience was amazing.
So who am I to buckle in the face of five days of constant strong wind with blasts of over 35 knots and a constant swell. With at least another two to three days of the same ahead. Nope, I am not going to complain.
At least we can periodically manoeuvre ourselves into the bucking dinghy and make our way to land.
This morning's bright spot was a rainbow making its way through the rain and cloud over Airlie Beach.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Pirates in the Passage!

Sawmill Bay, Cid Harbour, this morning ...
... and this was the view to the north-west last night.
We woke to a beautiful cloud formation and glass-like water in Cid Harbour this morning.
Our crossing from Double Bay yesterday resulted in one pirate ship sighting, one beaut size mackerel and one very happy captain.
Fresh mackerel for tea again. Delicious!
You never know what you're going to see in the Whitsunday Passage.
We had our first snorkel of the season in May's Bay yesterday. Despite the weather having been calm for a number of days, the water was surprisingly turbulent and visibility down to a metre. It's a beaut little bay, one that we've not explored before but it's rocky fringe and big offshore bommie decided us against an overnight anchorage there, hence we snuck around the corner into Sawmill Bay and Cid Harbour.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Saturday paper run

`Doo do do, lookin' out my back door' (this morning). Makes you want to sing!
It could have been the most expensive paper pick-up run ever if it hadn’t been for the light breeze that allowed us to sail from Airlie back to Double Bay after picking up a Weekend Australian yesterday. Mind you we threw in an extra couple of goodies like fresh olive baguettes, fruit, milk and juice while there.
After two blissfully undisturbed night's sleep, we decided on the paper run to Airlie but had to motor around as there was little to no breeze. We anchored off the VMR ramp and Royden ran me into shore in the dinghy to walk up to the supermarket while he attended to a couple of jobs on Sea Piper.
There were a lot fewer boats anchored/moored off Airlie than two years ago. The tri-masted  Whitsunday Magic lying on its side on the reef of Pigeon Island, west of the town, was another stark reminder of how exposed Pioneer Bay can be to storms.  
We were happy to be heading back to our secluded and remote little bay after a couple of hours in Airlie.
Sailing back to Double Bay with the weekend paper on board and the Code Zero doing a great job in the light winds.
Double Bay is one of the most delightful anchorages in the Whitsundays (according to us).
We arrived here on Thursday afternoon just before the predicted squall which changed the wind speed from zero knots to 30 knots in a few seconds.
Because we are tucked in right at the bottom of the bay, there is no space for waves to kick up and Sea Piper remained steady throughout the blast. The bucketing rain washed the decks clean of salt and we were able to then channel the rain into our water tanks – not that we’d used much but every little bit helps.
Our protected position in the bay also means we have no phone or TV and only intermittent internet (usually night and early morning).and that’s through an aerial located right at the top of our 17m mast.
Our foray around to Airlie yesterday allowed us to make contact with Easy Rider who left Townsville a day later than us. By the time we returned to Double Bay they were anchored up and ready to join us for a fresh mackerel dinner. The real treat however was Henma’s home-made apple crumble straight out of the oven.
The Easy Rider crew managed to find their way back to their boat in the dark and between light rain showers. Another squall rolled in around midnight, setting the wind generator whizzing and again washing the decks.
Royden slept blissfully through it - the advantages of hearing loss!
Today is `reading the Weekend Australian’ day and maybe we’ll go for a ride in the dinghy and a walk on one of the very small sand beaches on this side.
So far I've done little reading though. Hair's washed, bed's made, the washing's done, bathroom's cleaned and the blog updated - with a pause for coffee and a shortbread.
Beautiful conditions look like prevailing all this week - with the odd daily squall.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Ducking for cover in Double Bay

The stars over remote Holbourne Island were magnificent last night but as the sliver of moon disappeared the night turned to absolute blackness.
So much for our thoughts that, with limited shelter here, we could, if the sea got too lumpy, pick up the anchor and do a night sail across to Gloucester Island or the mainland.
The night did turn a bit swelly as the (very light) wind shifted around to the north. We had anchored in lieu of a prevailing south easterly. Just goes to show you can never get it quite right.
Another thing that influences swell here is the passing tankers and freight ships. I'm glad I saw it happen in light or I would have been wondering all night why we kept getting these series of big waves rocking us about.
The big ships, some bound for Abbot Point north of Bowen, others further south and north, are many kms away but their wash carries far across the sea.
Despite our determination to sail over to Double Bay today, the 10 knot northerly disappeared at daybreak, replaced by a fluky and almost non-existent breeze.
We gave up on flapping sails after an hour or so and started a motor, arriving here early afternoon.
Double Bay is two bays north-west of Airlie Beach. It's a lovely sheltered bay lined with mangroves and scrub, and with lots of fishlife.
We'll probably stay here a couple of days as winds are forecast to pick up to 25 knots later today before dropping away again on Saturday when we will most likely head across to the Whitsunday islands..
Looking out from our Double Bay anchorage towards Grassy Island at the entry.

What a view for our beaut little tumbler washer that we picked up in the laundry at Bluewater (Cairns) last year. Note our `new' dinghy which is half the weight of our previous one AND I can start the motor!
We anchored in the nick of time as a light rain squall hit about half an hour later. I hurriedly grabbed the washing out of our little tumbler and hung it on the railings for its rinse cycle, then we settled back with lunch and a book while the rain passed by.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Weather window and we're headed south

With new (pre-loved) dinghy hanging from the davits and a freshly cleaned hull, Sea Piper was all ready for the beaut weather window that opened this week.
Housework - marine style. This was the second scrape down in a month as the coral worms really got going in the last few weeks. It was worth the effort as the hulls came up a treat.
It was worth the wait for our trip to the Whitsundays to have light south-easterlies turning to afternoon north easterlies, especially for yesterday's long haul from Townsville to Cape Upstart, around 80 nautical miles.
We had fuelled up on Monday in preparation and planned to leave the marina around 4am Tuesday however the heavens opened at 3.30am (meaning a mad scurry to close hatches) so we went back to bed until it stopped raining and didn't leave until 5.30am.
There was still a bit of a swell across Cape Cleveland, the left overs of the last eight days of 25-30 knot winds and lustier gusts, but we crossed reasonably quickly and the seas calmed beautifully as we headed towards Cape Bowling Green.
We didn't know at the time that a fresh ship wreck lay just off Cape Cleveland. A wooden yacht that had left the marina the day before had a fire on board just off Cape Cleveland and burned to the waterline. We heard the debris warnings from the Coast Guard long after we'd rounded the cape. So sad for its owners who had worked for months to get her ready.

Early morning rounding of Cape Cleveland.
The waters around Bowling Green are usually productive for us so the lures went out and we landed two mackerel which will keep us in fish for the next few weeks.
The first of our catches awaits filleting.
The 35nm stretch from Bowling Green to Cape Upstart seems to take forever but we were making excellent time motor sailing and had the anchor down just before 5pm so we could sit on the back of the boat and enjoy the spectacular sunset. It was a beautiful calm night - and it stayed that way, unlike our first experience here two years ago. 
Early morning sea cloud and Holbourne Island is out there somewhere.
We set off around 7am this morning, deciding to bypass Bowen and head instead to a little known island about 30nm off the coast. I'd read or heard about Holbourne Island some time ago and could only remember thinking that if conditions were right, we should go there.
So here we are - and it is truly beautiful - and very little visited except by turtles and sea birds. White coral beaches, crystal clear water and great snorkelling. It doesn't get much better.
Holbourne Island
Turtles, birds and crayfish make this island their home
Little visited and pristine.
The weather's forecast to kick up a bit tomorrow afternoon so we'll be heading to one of the coastal bays north of Airlie Beach to shelter for a day or two before continuing out to the Whitsundays either on the weekend or early next week.