Thursday, 15 September 2016

Mackay Northbound or from rock art to a scary lee shore

From Mackay, we headed north into the Whitsunday group of islands for the second time.

First stop was the Scawfell in the South Cumberland group of islands.  The crossing was a good one and we sailed almost all the way.  The anchorage is a deep bay on the North West side of the island with good protection from the trade winds.  It took two attempts to anchor and we stayed two nights in the end along with 5 or 6 other boats including SeaSay who we have shared anchorages with before.  Crystal clear waters and a lovely beach.

We took the dinghy into the beach and had a bit of a walk around.

Entering the anchorage at Scawfell Island
Absolutely deserted beach at Scawfell Island.  A beautiful spot!

Dry creek just off the beach

We followed it inland a bit till it got too rough for our old legs.

Lonely dinghy on the beach

And lonely Dave :-)

I had to help Terry the artist with this..  It's something we've done in a few places now and I find it fascinating to find the balance points of different rocks.  Good fun!

A curious mix of physics and art
We moved on to Brampton Island which was where we met a whole bunch of butterflys last time we came through.  It's a lovely spot but quite eerie as the resort has been closed for years and so it's very neglected.  We stopped in at Western Beach this time on the (you guessed it) west side of the island.  The fringing reef is separated from the beaches by a narrow and shallow channel.  After we anchored, a bunch of Macgregor trailer sailors came past us and went right over the reef into the channel behind and anchored there. 

We hopped into the dinghy and went ashore.  The tide was falling at the time and we planned to be away for a couple of hours which would have made it high tide when we got back so we pulled the dinghy up the beach a bit and put the anchor in the tree line.  We followed a walking trail to Dinghy Bay on the south east of the island.  It was a lot further than we thought :-)  A lovely walk though.  We've found Brampton to be a great spot to visit!  It's a national park and the trails are easy to follow and reasonably well signed. 

However, it took a lot longer than we thought so when we got back, the dinghy was about 100 metres from the sea.  Bugger..  The beach there shelves really slowly so even after we'd dragged it down to the sea, we still had to drag it about 20 metres further before the bloody thing would float.  We were both exhausted by the time we got back to the boat so we crashed and had a late tea.

Venture is out there somewhere :-)

Over the hill to Dinghy Beach

A walkway over one of the creeks
The following day, we headed off to Stingray Bay on Goldsmith Island.

This anchorage is on the south side of the island and we chose it because the expected weather overnight was 5 to 10 knots from the North.  Boy did we get a surprise!

A front came through in the early hours and the wind swung round to the south at 20kts gusting 25 or more putting us on a lee shore in rising seas.  We were woken by the anchor alarm at 2am and when we turned the instruments on, we found ourselves with 1m under the keel when we had anchored in 10m of water at near low tide! We decided to get out of there and head around to the other side of the island so we started the engine and headed up towards the anchor.  We bumped the sand a couple of times as we headed out into deeper water.

I went forward and started pulling the anchor up while Terry stayed by the wheel.  But I could not get the anchor to break free of the sea bed!  The seas were mounting and the bow was pitching about 2 meters when the waves came through.  I tried pulling on the anchor when the bow was down but as it came up, the chain was pulled back over the gypsy (see below).  The anchor was properly wedged or the chain had wrapped around a rock.  I gave up and went back to the cockpit to find Terry in a right state..  She had been panicking as it was pitch black and the plot showed rocks off the starboard bow but she couldn't see them.

We talked it over and decided she would go back to bed while I kept station over the anchor until daylight.  The only other option really was to slip the anchor entirely (let all the chain out) with a buoy attached so we could pick it up another day.  But I was confident that worst of the weather had passed us so I was happy to hang there until it calmed down again.  Amazingly enough, Terry actually went back to sleep!

So I spent nearly 3 hours at the helm watching the plot and trying to keep the boat in one place over the anchor using the engine.  It was actually not that difficult once I figured out that with the engine just above idle and left rudder, it basically sat there head to the wind.  The engine just counterbalanced the wind and we were basically hove-to using the engine.  Occasionally I'd have to give it a squirt of power to bring the bow back into the wind but on the whole, it was relatively easy, just really tedious.. 

In the morning, I got Terry up and we freed the anchor by giving it about 10 meters of slack and motoring slowly against the pull of the anchor chain.  It didn't work first time round (clockwise) but second time round (anti-clockwise) it unwound from whatever it was stuck on and the anchor came up cleanly but with a 5 degree bend in the shank!

We went around the other side of the island to Western Beach and anchored again with a sigh of relief.  I had a kip..

Our anchor winch..  The "gypsy" is on the right hand side with the chain going over it.  The chain disappears into the anchor locker just behind and below the gypsy.

This was the track recorded on our plotter of the 3 hours or so I spent keeping station over the anchor.

Location: Brampton Island, Queensland 4805, Australia
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Monday, 5 September 2016

North to Mackay

We left Rosslyn Bay and headed further north aiming for Mackay.  As usual, we planned carefully to do the trip in small hops all during the day which meant some early morning departures but means we rarely (if ever) end up entering an anchorage in the dark.

We headed for Port Clinton first as we stopped just north of that anchorage in Pearl Bay last time we headed north.  It's a large, well protected area with a lot of small shallow creeks but anchorages for all weather.  We stopped on the western shore a couple of miles south of the entrance in 3 meters of water but expecting another 5 meters at high tide.  Tides are getting much bigger now as we head north.

We only stayed overnight and in the morning moved on to Island Head Creek just 20 miles north.  This is another large area with mangroves and creeks suitable for anchorage in all weathers.  We stopped this time in the second inlet about 2.5 miles from the entrance.  We put our nose into the first inlet but we were put off by very shallow water and with the big tides, we tried further down and found a nice spot just inside the inlet near the northern bank.  There were a couple of other boats in there but nobody we knew and we wanted a rest before the next leg.

We stayed there for a few nights enjoying the peace, did some exploring of the creek and had a quite unsuccessful fishing expedition. 

An unsuccessful fishing expedition.  But they say you have to actually put the hooks in the water if you want to catch a fish..  Go figure..

At anchor in Island Head Creek

We headed off early for the 40 mile leg up to the Duke Islands.  We decided to go the inside route this time as we visited the Percy's on the outside route last time.

Heading around Townshend Island, we hit 9.5 knots at one point in 15kts relative wind on the port quarter but that was in a 2 knot northbound current :-)

We anchored in a beautiful spot behind Hunter island which looks quite exposed but is well sheltered from the SE Trades.  We headed into the beach for sundowners and toasted an absolutely glorious sunset behind Venture at anchor.

A toast to the cruising life!

From the Duke islands, we headed up to a small island called Curlew 30 miles north west.  The anchorage off the northern beach was lovely but the trades were blowing hard and we spent an uncomfortable night with 25kt bullets (sudden wing gusts) coming over the hills and a fair swell coming around the southern point.  So we only spent one night there and headed off to Mackay the following morning.

The trip over was very rolly with the wind on the port quarter and not quite enough to stabilise the boat against the easterly swell.  But we did manage to sail most of the day with the engine off.

Location: Mackay QLD 4740, Australia
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Saturday, 20 August 2016

Lady Musgrave Island

I thought I'd add some more about Lady Musgrave.

As I said in the last post, we were only there for one full day before we had to leave due to predicted strong northerlies.  The anchorage is protected well at low tide but the swells come right over the reef at high tide so it can be quite uncomfortable in strong winds at high tide.  So I'm told that is, we didn't hang around to find out :-)

The island is a real treasure! A coral cay just 35 miles East of the common jump off point at Pancake Creek.  The island itself is sand with a lot of trees and we took a walk right around on the beach.

We didn't get into the water there unfortunately as the wind had picked up but next time, we most definitely will!  The reefs look magical and the water was crystal clear when we anchored, not so much the next day though.

We did get onto the island though for a walk around.  In fact, we did walk all the way around and through the middle :-)

Lady Musgrave Island

Not exactly a clean wake!

A lovely walk through the interior of the island

Black Noddies in the trees.  Lots of them!

Beach on the Northern side of the island

View of the anchorage from the beach

It was a trial getting the dinghy back to the water.

Location: Lady Musgrave Island, Queensland 4805, Australia
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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Bundy to Rosslyn Bay or Pancakes to tropical coldness

We left Bundy at dawn (sorry Terry) for the long trip north to Pancake Creek.  64 miles at an average cruising speed of 5 knots makes for a very long day and to get there in daylight meant we had to really push things along.

We made it in just over 11 hours in the end at an average speed of 5.9 knots.  Motor sailed most of the way with less than 10 knots of wind from the south-east (right over our right shoulder) but we managed to turn the motor off for about 2 hours or so during the trip. A very roly day on the water.

Pancake creek is a nice anchorage and we had fond memories from the last time we were there but this time round, it took three goes to get the anchor to hold!  The first two times in different places we hit rock shelves and trying to set the anchor just gave rumbling noises as the anchor dragged over the rock.  We got it to set at the third attempt finding some sand deep enough to grab.  Both of us were a bit pissed off by the end of the exercise but we were heartened when the next boat in had similar trouble :-).  We had pancakes for tea!

After tea, I expected to have hot water after running the engine most of the day but no, the system I set up to heat the water from the engine had failed!  A pump I bought to circulate water from a heat exchanger through the hot water tank stopped working and was blowing the in-line fuse.  It's a year old and dirt cheap but still..  Bugger.

We spent three nights there in the end with "sundowners" on two different sand banks.  It's an odd feeling to be sitting down drinking wine with fellow yachties and you find yourself surrounded by water as the tide comes in.  In the end, it's a bit of a rush to get everything packed away in the dinghies to get back home before the chair legs get wet.

Sundowners on the sand bank at Pancake Creek

Nothing happening here!

From there we headed out to Lady Musgrave.  We missed this stop the last time we came north due to weather conditions so we were determined to get there this time.  It's the southernmost coral cay in the Barrier Reef chain and part of the Capricornia group of islands. A magic spot with an island at one end of a huge lagoon surrounded by coral reefs.

I had a cunning plan.  It went, we head off from pancake creek and sail to Lady Musgrave arriving just at slack water on the low tide.  Slack water because the lagoon empties through a very narrow channel so going in on an ebb tide is a bit dodgy.  So we dawdled along with me feeling quite smug as another boat that left before us headed off at top speed.

We arrived next to the reef entrance about 1 hour before low tide at 16:00.  Nope, this wasn't part of the plan, it was a screw-up.  The sea around the entrance to the channel was a totally confused mess with eddies and whirlpools.  At that time, I figured out that the tide app on my phone was an hour out for some unknown reason as it's been pretty accurate all along.  An hour till low tide and another hour before the flow subsided meaning if we waited, we would be anchoring in the dark amongst coral outcrops.

So, we headed into through this really narrow channel with thousands of tons of water headed the other way.  It was probably the absolute worst time to enter the lagoon and decidedly dodgy!  About 50 meters before we entered the channel, Venture was turned through almost 45 degrees one way and then the same again in the other direction due to one of the eddies.  It was really tricky holding a straight course through that mess.  After some heart-stopping moments, we entered the channel with the engine at top speed making about 1.5 knots over the ground and close to 7 knots through the water!

Inside the channel, the water stabilised into a lamina flow so no more fighting the wheel, just a very slow passage over about 100 metres of maybe 15 metre wide channel and that was when we saw what makes the lagoon waters so special. We could clearly see the coral on either side sloping off down to the sandy bottom about 8 meters below us.  The water was like glass, an absolutely amazing sight!

We were both gob smacked all the way up through the lagoon to the anchorage.  You could see the coral outcrops clearly and it was quite easy to find a big patch of sand to put the anchor down.  I could watch the anchor settle on the bottom, 7 meters below us and as I paid out the chain, I could see it turn over and start to dig in.

Through all this, we took not one single photo!  We were both stunned but thought that the conditions would be the same the following day so we basically lazed around and planned what we would do the next day.

Then the weather changed.  For the whole of the next day it was blowing at about 10 to 15 knots and cold, the sea was choppy and there was a swell running especially when the reef was covered at high tide.  We knew we would only have one full day there as there was some bad weather coming and the lagoon can be a very uncomfortable place in a developed strong wind.  We did take the dinghy to the beach and had a nice walk around and across the island but no snorkelling.  Bugger.

A pretty poor panorama of the beach at Lady Musgrave

We left the next day and headed back to Pancake Creek to wait out the predicted northerly blow before heading north again.  The cunning plan was a total bust!  If we had not dawdled over, we would have had a much easier passage through the channel and the afternoon to mess about in the glass like conditions but no, too clever by half.

We spent another couple of nights in the creek before heading off at dawn again (sorry Terry) for Hummocky Island, just on the other side of the tropic of Capricorn.  The tropics.  We celebrated by having a tipple of (what I thought) was Dubliner (whisky liqueur).  Terry took one sip and nearly spat it out.  I'd poured McAllister (cheap mixing scotch) instead :-)  After hunting through the boat for at least 10 minutes, we finally came up with the bottle of Dubliner which Terry had put in a very safe place and had our "cheers" moment!

Crossing into the tropics.  Cheers!
Funnily enough it was just as cold on the northern side of the tropic of Capricorn as the southern side..  Go figure.

The weather forecast let us down this time.  We chose to go on a day with some nice strong South Westerly winds which would put Venture on a beam reach in perfect sailing conditions but by the time we left, the forecast was downgraded to only 5 to 10 knots and that was what we got.  The motor was on almost the whole way yet again.

On the way, we crossed the tropic of Capricorn and entered the tropics.

Venture at Hummocky Island.
The rocks on the left here looked a lot closer from the boat!

Hummocky Island was nice!  A big bay on the northern side of the island with good clean sand for the anchor and protection from the expected strong southerly overnight.  On the way in, we saw some big sea caves so we dropped the dinghy and motored around to have a look inside.

With torches in hand, I turned the dinghy round and backed slowly towards the first cave.  There was about a 1/2 meter swell running and it was quite disconcerting to see this hill of water disappear into the cave and the surge was quite strong.  I was just getting the hang of balancing the motor against the intermittent surge to slowly move backwards into the cave when there was this loud hollow boom somewhere inside the cave.  It was really quite eerie.  So we chickened out and motored around to the other cave.  This one had a wider opening and looked more promising except the roof sloped down to a small opening at the back maybe 10 meters inside the cliff face.

The opening was about 3 meters wide but the surge
and weird booming noises were a bit much for us brave souls

This one was wider but not very deep into the cliff face
except for the tiny opening at the back

Not quite the adventure we expected.  Terry was wearing a head band torch the whole time but we never got out of the sunlight :-)

Daryl and Ruth were in the anchorage with us in their boat so we had sundowners on the beach.  Daryl and I swapped stories while Terry chased Max (2 and bit) all over the place. Nibbles and wine were consumed until well after sunset.  Both Max and Terry slept well that night but I hung around in the cockpit trying to figure out if we were getting closer to the rocks as the tide dropped.

Sunset at Hummocky Island

At one stage, I was using a narrow torch beam, a level app on my phone and the formula "tan Θ = distance_to_rocks / height _above_water" (I'm a tech head, what do you expect!) to figure out the distance.  I discovered that it's really tricky to hold a phone on top of the torch as high as possible while simultaneously pointing the torch at the rock and reading the angle on the phone on the back of a moving boat!  After 3 attempts I averaged out the results and came up with 30 meters!  The plan was to repeat it an hour later but I fell asleep in the cockpit.  Math is fun but a laser range finder would be so much better :-)

The following day we headed off to Rosslyn Bay for some provisioning and another couple of odd jobs. Another motor sail in 5 to 10 knot breeze.  We are really putting some hours on our new motor!

Sunset at Roslyn Bay (Keppel Bay Marina)

Highlights: Some nice sailing up the coast and crystal clear water at Musgrave
Lowlights: The engine water heater failed.  Bugger.

For those that are interested, here's our current track Northbound since we left Tweed Heads.  It should open in Google Earth..

Northbound Track

Location: Lady Musgrave, QLD, Australia
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Gary's to Bundy or rellies and whales to headaches.

We lazed around at Gary's anchorage for 3 days in the end waiting for the wind to drop and then headed up to the Kingfisher resort to catch up with some rellies from the old country.

Ian is my cousin and I hadn't seen him or his family for many years so it was great to catch up in a nice spot on Fraser Island.  They are over from Bahrain for a holiday down under and loving every minute of it!  Ian, his son Harry and elder daughter Amelia came for a ride in the dinghy out for a short tour of Venture at anchor off the beach while Lisa and little Rosie finished off the pizza back at the resort.  We didn't have time for a sail but Harry and Amelia were full of questions and are now keen to go sailing apparently!

Amelia managed to get her life jacket on without any help but Harry and Ian made a meal of it finally agreeing that inside out was just fine!

We stayed the night at the resort and headed off up the Fraser coast and into Hervey Bay to laze around some more.

We spent three of four days moving slowly north along the Fraser Island coast.  The whole coastline is an anchorage with great holding and in the south-east winds, very peaceful.  And lots of whale sightings!

Hervey Bay is well known as a great spot to get a good look at the humpback whales as they migrate north up the east coast of Aussie and it didn't disappoint!  I'm sure Terry will put a few photos up when she gets around to catching up but here's a couple to be going on with.

Heading straight for us.

Just missing the anchor chain!

Our last night on at Fraser Island was a pain.  First the head (toilet) failed!  The electric motor just wouldn't pump or chop which as you can imagine, is a bit of a disaster.  Then the expected wind change came through but stronger than I expected and suddenly we were on a lee shore with 15 knots gusting more of westerly.  Venture was hobby-horsing all night with the bow burying at least twice.  I stayed up in the cockpit because if the anchor dragged, we would be on the beach within minutes while Terry tried to sleep in the V berth.

Our anchor didn't budge and inch but the catamaran just north of us dragged almost to the beach before they started the motor, upped anchor and headed a few hundred meters offshore to reset it.

We left at first light for Bundy after a sleepless night in 10 to 15 knots of westerly wind.  We were heading just north of west to make Bundy which was a pain in the ass.  I sailed for quite a while making about 15 degrees north of our best course hoping for a wind change but it didn't occur so we furled the jib and motor sailed at about 20 degrees to the wind.

About 15 miles out of Bundy the wind did change however but dropped to below 10 knots.  Typical..  I hoisted our "drifter" (asymmetric spinnaker) for a while which kept the engine off but eventually we gave up and motored the rest of the way.

We are about 60 deg off the wind here
And the drifter was pulling like a train!

So we made Bundaberg just before dark and pulled into the Port Marina for some more lazing around.

The following day was all about getting the head working again.  Nasty things heads if you didn't know it.  Emptying the bowl, sponging it out to reduce the leakage onto the floor and then taking the motor and macerator off.

Luckily, the marina has a pretty good chandlery and I managed to source a new electric motor and the seals I needed and by the end of the day, we were over our headache and had a working toilet again!  Yeh...  The cost?  Well the whole toilet (bowl, seat, motor, macerator and fittings) cost us $240 originally, the parts we needed to fix it (motor and seals) came to nearly $220.  Go figure!

Highlights?  Definitely the rellies and whales!  Lowlights? A scary lee shore and the friggin head!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Tweed to Fraser or losing the plot to sledging

We left Tweed Heads in very calm conditions heading North.  As I've said before, there's a catch 22 in living on a sailboat.  When you want to move, you wait for a weather window head off.  Sounds easy but....

Our definition of a weather window is fairly strict.  For the duration of the planned journey, we need the predicted wind not directly on the nose and less than 20 knots and if we have a bar crossing, add swell less than 2 meters.  There are other considerations like if there is a blow coming later, do we have a plan B if it comes early etc but that's our basic thinking.

In practice, this means (with a bar crossing) we leave a day or two after a blow with the wind well behind the beam at 5 to 10 knots.  The catch 22 is that these conditions normally end up meaning not enough wind to actually sail.

Venture will do cruising speed (5 knots) with 12 knots of wind anywhere from about 45 deg through to 120 deg off the bow but the wind always seems to be 140+ deg and around 8 knots so we do a lot of motor sailing.  Caution always wins the prize but it can be a pain in the neck.

We motor sailed up to the Gold coast seaway and anchored overnight in Bums Bay.  Our plan was to get up to the north of Morton Bay and hang there for a good window to get through the Wide Bay bar into the Sandy Strait with enough time to get up to the resort on Fraser to meet up with my cousin Ian and family visiting from the UK (well he's currently living in Bahrain..).

Some strange sights on the Gold Coast

I kept wondering if there was anyone driving!

Just after we left Tweed, our main navigation aid (Raymarine C80 plotter) started playing up.  The screen would start shivering and percussive maintenance no longer fixed it.  Eventually, it wouldn't boot at all.  The first backup worked fine with a tablet and Navionics so no real panic.  The second backup (paper charts) we've never had to use so far (luckily, there's lots of wood here in the cockpit) and they are well packed away somewhere.

So we headed up to Boatworks in the Broadwater to get it fixed. As percussive maintenance had fixed this in the past, I was pretty sure it was just a bad connection somewhere but I wasn't keen on opening it up myself.

Overnight at Boatworks was very nice.  Lovely people, lots of help around and a nice setting.  I'd recommend it to anyone!  And the Raymarine guru fixed the plotter for cheap!

We headed off from there up through the Broadwater into Morton bay the next day and anchored overnight behind Peel Island. There are two very shallow spots up around Jacobs Well.  We always slow down in the dodgy bits so when we touched ground on the first one, we were not all that concerned.  We were on about half tide rising so we know we could get off. Anyway after the first "bugger, time for a cuppa" she kept moving (very slowly) and eventually found deeper water after about 200 metres or so of sliding along the bottom.  At one point I hit on a brilliant commercial idea equal to post-it-notes I think!  A retractable undercarriage! I'm looking for investors if anyone is interested!

Just before the next shallow bit, there's a new sign "Very shallow, area, less than one metre ahead".  They were right!  We did another 10 metres or so sliding on the silt and then though and on our way.

We had a nice quiet night anchored off the beach at Peel Island and made for Tangalooma the next day.  However, the plotter failed again (constant rebooting this time) when we started it up.  I was just thinking that maybe "cheap" may not have been "good" when I decided to try a factory reset,  something I didn't want to do as all our tracks, waypoints etc were in NVRAM and our backup is a year or so old.  How is it that you can give everyone sage advice and then fail to follow it yourself??

One of the wrecks at Tangalooma with some superstructure left

The reset fixed it anyway so "cheap" worked.  The guru at Boatworks tells us that the plotter is about 4 hardware generations old and suggested we start saving for a new one.  But that would mean replacing the radar unit too (not compatible) meaning something like 6 boat units cost.  I let that one through to the keeper and kept smiling.  No doubt it will turn to a grimace at some time in the future.

Tangalooma was as we remembered it minus the superstructure of all the wrecks.  A piece fell off one of them a while back and so a decision was made to chop off anything that was suspect meaning everything higher than 2 meters or so from the low water level.. That's a bit disappointing but a large chunk of metal falling would give one of the thousands of visitors to the wrecks a real headache and proactive beats hindsight every time!

We left Tangalooma early and made for Mooloolaba.  Another pleasant motor sail up the coast and another grounding in the anchorage there!  The sand bank to the north-west is a real gotcha, we grounded there in the dinghy last year so we really should have known better!  We hit it quite hard this time, coming to a halt and it was a falling tide so just a bit of panic..  Reverse gear and some wiggling pulled us off all right though and we set the anchor in deeper water.

There for one night and off to Wide Bay.  This was an overnight to catch the tide over the bar early (dawn) the following day (sorry Terry..).  We managed to sail for a few hours this time as the wind was just behind the beam and Terry stuck with until about midnight!  Sailing at 3 knots some of the time but we had plenty of time so that wasn't a real problem.

We crossed the bar in fine weather and headed directly for Gary's anchorage where we stayed for a few days relaxing on the boat.  The anchor dragged at one point (25kts of wind and a strong current) moving us about 30 meters into the channel which was a bit disconcerting.  But we moved and it was otherwise uneventful.

Highlights were sledging in a 38' yacht and a nice night sail up the coast.  Lowlights were sledging in a 38' yacht and losing the plot for a while.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Tweed to Grafton and back or Cap Rails to Hatch Covers, Groundings and Sunsets.

The Ivory marina at Tweed Heads is a top spot to hang around and fairly cheap for this area!  The pontoons are attached to a pub with cold beer and $10 rump steaks!  It has some disadvantages with some noisy nights but it really hasn't bothered us too much.  It's also a fairly short bike ride to a couple of shopping centres.

When Terry got back from Adelaide we got stuck into the cap rails.  They are the wooden (teak) bits that go all the way around the perimeter of the boat separating the dry from the wet.  The main rule in sailing is to stay on the dry area inside the cap rail as nasty things can happen if you stray onto the wet.

The cap rails had taken a beating over the years with nicks and scratches allowing sea water to the bare wood in places.  This caused the varnish to lift around the damage allowing more water to enter.  Then mould got a foothold and it was not possible to do repairs.  Yep, we should have looked after it better.

We stripped it back to bare wood which sounds easy but took much sweat and tears.  Some of it came off easily (fingernail underneath and pull) but other bits were very tenacious. A mix of scraping with a tungsten blade and a heat gun we found to be the easiest way to get the stubborn bits off.

Then sanding with 80 grit, 120 grit and finally 240 grit paper until it was as smooth and flat as we could get it.  It was all wiped down then on with 6 coats of Marine Spar gloss varnish (Feast Watson).  We stopped at 6 because we wanted to do some sailing :-)

We also tried an oil finish (Intergrain Ultradeck) on the teak handrails which worked really well and also left a glossy finish.  Three coats were enough and the beauty of this is that it is not a varnish so we should never have to go back to bare wood again!

So we went sailing...  And here's a link to the track we took.  It should open in Google Earth. Ballina to Grafton and back to Tweed Heads

When we initially came north, we wanted to stop in at Yamba and cruise up the Clarence river but the bar when we arrived at the river entrance, we hove-to on the leads and watched the swells breaking over the bar.  It didn't look promising and when we heard from the local marine rescue that the fishing trawlers were not going out, we chickened out and carried on overnight to the Gold Coast seaway instead.  But we always knew we'd be back as the Clarence is supposed to be well worth a visit.

So we headed out from Tweed Heads south for the Clarence.  The first leg took us to Ballina where we stayed for a couple of days.  The anchorage is on the opposite side of the Richmond River from the town and was a bit tricky to get into.  There was a dredge working and the outflow pipe was right across the entrance but we figured it out in the end and dropped the anchor.

Ballina is a really nice spot!  There's a public jetty right in the centre of town (supposed to be 2 hours only but we eventually found out it doesn't apply to dinghies) and the river front is a nice, peaceful place with some quite interesting sculptures.

We left Ballina behind us and headed down to Yamba/Iluka and the Clarence.

First stop over the bar was the Iluka boat harbour.  This is quite shallow but large enough to be able to find a spot pretty easily. We stayed for a couple of days before arranging for a bridge opening at Harwood and moving on up the river.

The Harwood bridge is a lifting span bridge which means a chunk of road is lifted vertically up to allow shipping through.  The road is actually the Pacific Highway which is the major road between Sydney and Brisbane!  I actually felt a bit guilty holding up all that traffic while we tootled along under the bridge at 5 knots.  Sorry folks. (P.S. Terry here... I didn't feel guilty at all.... THE POWER!!) :D

The first stop upstream from the bridge was Maclean. This is a really interesting town with a fervent Scottish heritage.  They provide a public floating dock right next to the main street with room for two 40' boats with water and free electricity where you can stay for a max of 24 hours or longer if there are no other boats waiting to get on.

A great facility and a credit to the town!  They are planning to build another one from what I can gather and good on them!

I'm sure Terry will tell you all about the bagpipes on Anzac day :-)

We moved on up the river to Brushgrove next.  On the way, we passed a few prawn trawlers and every single one of them seemed to have a heron on the arms holding the net!  Weird..

Brushgrove is a small village on a fork in the river and another public dock.  No water or power this time so we dropped the anchor instead and spent some time dawdling around before heading off again.  There was a quite spectacular sunrise on the second day with the river covered in mist.

Bridge at Brushgrove

Misty morning at Brushgrove
Sens de la Vie (Meaning of Life) floating in the mist

Next stop was Ulmarra.  This is a really nice town with a great pub close to the floating dock and some great people.  We anchored opposite the town for another couple of nights and noticed this nice looking boat anchored just up from us.  It actually belongs to Alan Lucas who wrote the definitive anchorage guide to the NSW and Queensland coasts.  The two books we own of his (Cruising the NSW coast and Cruising the Coral coast) have enabled us to get into some really nice spots and helped enormously with local knowledge almost all the way up the coast.  Both are really worth having!

You don't see this every day either!

From here we carried on all the way to Grafton which is as far as we could go due to the fixed span bridge there.  We anchored initially close to the bridge and took the dinghy under the bridge (about a mile or so) to a public dock next to a pub (of course!) by the rowing club.  Grafton is a big town and it even had a Bunnings.  We needed that because we noticed our anchor light at the top of the mast had failed and the lantern we use on the back of the boat at night had basically rusted away.  Bunnings had a good quality waterproof "indestructible" lantern which we've been using since.  And we actually remembered to keep the receipt because it has a 3-year warranty :-)

I climbed the mast and to check out the light but  no amount of cursing or percussive maintenance helped.  I've never seen this type of light before and for once, we didn't carry a spare (Jack?).  We'll make do till we get back to Tweed Heads and figure out what to replace it with.

Masthead anchor light

We spent about a week in Grafton all told with a few trips into town and some bike rides.  We also posted off our Nikon camera for repair from there.  It's the second time it's been in for repair and we are not happy about it.  Some of the photos were showing coloured artefacts at the top and bottom.  We noticed it clearly in Brushgrove after looking at the misty morning photos although Sarah had noticed it while we were still in Adelaide over Christmas.  Anyway, I hope this is the last time we have to get it fixed!

There's a power line just downstream of Grafton which was a bit scary..  Having worked close to power lines before, I did not want our mast anywhere near them!  We have a masthead to waterline height of 15 meters which I physically measured back in Botany Bay.  The charts showed the power line clearance at 19 meters but as we got close to it, the sign said 17..  I know you need to keep at least 2m away from 128kv lines so I was panicking a bit till I read the sign properly.  It said "Max vessel height" so we still had at least 4m clearance.

17m Maximum Vessel height

I don't want to get much closer than this to high voltage wires!

It got pretty foggy on the anchorage the last night we were there!

You can clearly see the artefacts in this photo!
We pulled up the anchor and headed back down river stopping at the same places as before but using the pontoons and sampling the pubs (when they were open) this time.

Back in Maclean, we took up the offer from one of the locals to have a walk through a remnant of temperate rain forest on his property.  He was a Pom and had bought the block of land a long time ago building a road up to the top of the hill and a house there.  He's actually selling the block at the moment as they need to move to a more manageable house but it's way more than we could look at.  It's an absolutely magnificent property though! Some red cedar trees for which the Clarence valley was once famous, large gum trees with a closed canopy above and lots of vines and ferns.  There's a couple of waterfalls and two spring fed creeks a dam and lots of birds and a great view from the house.  Awesome.

That's Maclean on the other side of the river

From Maclean, we booked another bridge opening (thanks again folks) and motored down to Yamba this time (instead of Iluka).  There's a training wall on the Yamba side of the river with two openings and they both look similar on the charts.  I decided that we would go through the first one we came to as the second meant doubling back.  That turned out to be a pretty stupid mistake!

As we approached it, we both started to get a bit nervous.  It was very narrow..  The main chart showed the depth through there at 2m, the navionics app on our tablet showed it at 1.5m and Lucas had it at 1.1m.  The tide was around 0.8m so worst case I figured the actual depth at the time would be 1.9m.  We draw 1.6 or so meaning we would have at least a foot below the keel.  Pretty tight but shallow water is nothing new to us so we slowed down and went through at about 1 knot.   We were nearly through with the depth sounder showing 2m when we both felt a thud.  The rock wall was obviously not fully removed in the gap and we had touched it!
Don't go through this gap!

Not a nice feeling I can tell you as we both listened for the bilge pump starting up.  We have a full keel with a very solid base so I was not overly worried but it did raise my heart rate up somewhat.  We were kept busy then as we felt our way through the very shallow channel into the Yamba marina where we had booked a night for a good shower.  I told the chap at the marina our story and he said "We really need to put a sign on that gap as it's caught a few people out".   At least I'm not the only idiot sailing around :-).  So I now have yet another scary "whoops" moment to add to the list of things my brain wants me to relive as I'm trying to sleep!

We'll get the keel checked out by Matt (the resident diver) at Ivory Marina when we berth there later this week.

We motored over to Iluka the next day to get a quicker start out through the bar heading back to Tweed Heads.  The other gap was much bigger!

We left Iluka through the bar at dawn the following day (sorry Terry) and headed back to Ballina.  Not much wind but it was in the right spot early on to get the asymmetric (reacher) out and we made good time under sail for about 3 hours.  Then the wind turned to much to the south and died so we motor sailed the rest of the day.

We had been into Ballina before and it was very calm when we arrived.  We turned into the anchorage and headed around to where we anchored last time but went a tad too wide and ran up into a steep mud bank.  Grounded again (a regular occurrence..) with about a 10 degree list to starboard.  The tide was rising so it wasn't a big issue but the wind was pushing us further into the shallows so I dropped the dinghy, grabbed the kedge anchor and took it off to windward as far as I could.  Terry got right onto the winch and like a real grinder, winched us off.  We sheepishly took off again and anchored for the night.

There are two types of sailors from all accounts.  Those who admit they have run aground and those that lie.

We left Ballina at dawn (sorry Terry) and motor sailed back down to Tweed heads and anchored on the river just north of the golf course.  It's a nice spot but very shallow on the way in.  I think we touched the ground again at one point.  Just a hint of hesitation with the shallow alarm going off and the sounder reading near enough zero.  Ho hum..

One of the jobs on my list is the cabin hatch covers.  They are all looking a bit sad so I removed the mid hatch cover the day and sanded it back to bare wood on the outside and cleaned it up on the inside.  I've now got three coats of varnish on it and I'll put another two coats on tomorrow.  Fixing boats in exotic places.  The very definition of cruising in a yacht!

So, we're back at Tweed and we have "done the Clarence"!  It wasn't really what we expected in the end.  It was a really nice bit of slow travel with good facilities and we met some very interesting people.  But the river passed through farming country when I think we expected national parks.  Maybe we were spoiled by Broken Bay which we would go back to again and again.

We go back into the Ivory marina in a couple of days before we fly back to Adelaide and head over to the UK.

Some more sunsets and sunrises on the Tweed River for your enjoyment :-)

Phew, up to date finally!

(Terry here again... HE'S up to date. I'm absolutely, sadly lacking in the old update department. I have this major problem with procrastination, something i really must deal with one of these days. :)  )

Location: Grafton NSW 2460, Australia
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