Sunday, September 25, 2016

And Now for the Big Passage!

Arlie Beach Race Week 20
Since we have been in Australia having arrived last November, we have done coastal cruising. First we went from Newcastle south to Sydney Harbor, stopping in Pittwater in both directions. Then we sailed north from Newcastle to Bundaberg with an overnight anchored off Fraser Island and a five-day weather break in Bundaberg.  Then we made the run up through the Great Barrier Reef islands stopping for overnights on our way to Mackay. From Mackay, we cruised the Whitsunday Islands and Hamilton Island.

It isn't always smooth sailing. Here the gimbaled stove is
swinging and I am trying to keep the food in the pan!

Since it was Arlie Beach Race Week, we took a pass on Arlie Beach. The word was we would have loved if we were 40 years younger. A party town - especially during race week. As we left the Hamilton Island Marina, we were sailing just outside of the race course so we had a close view of the first turn.

Then other times, life is a beach - or aft deck!
We know a couple of Aussie gals who were racing and were lucky enough to see their boats on the AIS as well as on the water. I called Heather on La Quilta to say HI and wish them well. When she took the radio she stated "We are in a race!" I said, "I know. We are right here watching you make the first turn! Good Luck!" Trudy's boat was in a different class and was well ahead.

The passage from Mackay to Darwin is nearly 2000 nm. We had not been looking forward to it! Having Sheila join us has made it more pleasant with the watch schedule plus we have a lot of fun! She is a scuba instructor and loves the water so we find places to snorkel. I am still nursing bursitis in my right hip from that Kings Canyon trek several months ago, so I can't enjoy hiking paths and beach walks right now.

Dennis and Sheila bringing in a tuna. She will make sashimi
and Poisson cru for them. I will eat cooked tuna!
To make the passage more interesting, we stopped at several anchorages for overnight rests along the way. Much like the California coast, there are not a lot of places to tuck in for an overnight. To get in, you need to go up a river and often that means crossing a sandbar, which must be done at the correct tidal flow. Timing is everything!

Also the rivers in Queensland and the Northern Territory are full of Crocodiles! We have been warned many times not to take a dinghy into a river or mangrove area anywhere in these territories. At least two people were taken by crocs this year. And no swimming!

Sheila's joke on Dennis!
Even some of the islands off the mainland are guarded by crocodiles! Our goal from Hamilton Island was to reach the anchorage on Gloucester Island in Bona Bay in the southwest corner. This required going through a tricky winding shallow cut between the reefs extending out from Cape Gloucester and Gloucester Island. We would arrive in Bona Bay before the sun set, but would be looking into the setting sun as we searched for navigation aids. It didn't help that one boat was anchored in front of a buoy in the cut where we needed to turn! It was a challenging passage with very little water just meters away from us.

We are sailing with S/Y Brizo, our British friends, so it makes it more interesting visiting places together and chatting on the VHF. They had caught two fish before we ever got a line in the water!

On board S/V Trillium, we were having a fishing contest. Before Dennis caught the first tuna, Sheila reconfigured Dennis' line with the "Catch of the DAY." We had a good laugh. Of course, Sheila was responding to the trick Dennis had played on her.

This is what it looks like at night when you can't see what
is out there is the dark. Gotta trust those cartographers!
She sets up her line with an audible alarm: with a rope tied around a water bottle, we are supposed to here a crackling sound when a fish bites. So Dennis went below and squeezed an empty water bottle outside our cabin porthole. Sheila got very excited about catching a fish so quickly. I was trying hard no to laugh and give it away. Fun time!
Then when Sheila caught her tuna, she got so excited that she put on her life vest, but did not buckle it. Not much good if she had gone overboard in her enthusiasm! Her's was a blue fin.

Here we had just passed a converging shipping channel.
You can see two cargo ships coming together. We are
the black boat symbol on the chart plotter.
Sailing within the Great Barrier Reef is more comfortable - most of the time - than sailing outside of it. The challenge is avoiding the hundreds of reefs and islands within the Great Barrier Reef. And a number of large cargo ships in the two way passages. It is well marked, but you must be vigilant while on watch duty.

Happy Sails to You, Until We Meet Again!
From Bona Bay, we would sail overnight to Magnetic Island to have a day on shore and night at anchor before leaving early for Cairns. We had a number of overnight sails ahead of us. We can make 55-70 nm in daylight, but that doesn't always get us to a place where we can stop for the night. And anchoring at night is risky business.

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