DAY 12 – FRI 29 SEP
Hamilton to Plantation Bay, Lindeman Island
Had a great day yesterday – just hanging out around the Island, resting and writing the blog. The Admiral’s back has started to play up, and she is really enjoying the opportunity to stand fully upright (which this boat size doesn’t really allow her) and to go for long walks. Showering is also a bonus! We also caught up on the washing and a myriad of other small jobs.
I went across to the Marina Chandlery – well stocked and probably about 15-20% more expensive than what I would expect online or from a major retail outlet. More than worth it for the convenience. They also had free tide tables (about the only thing on Hamilton Island that is free!).
The Admiral and Cabin Boy had made best use of the buggy again – and I had just finished posting Part 1 of the Blog when I received the following photo and invitation to be picked to join the two of them! A very nice way to spend an afternoon!
We had a great evening last night – Hamilton Island set up a small open air cinema near the Marina, including a stand selling hotdogs, freshly made popcorn and ice-cream. Cabin Boy and I were in our element! The movie was Lego Batman which was far better than I thought it was going to be. We sat down on our towels on the grass and had a picnic dinner. Very family friendly and well run. I did find it particularly amusing watching bats from Hamilton Island fly past the screen during the movie (although I was the only one!).
The weather was still from the North and predicted at 10-15 knots with seas and swell increasing over the coming days. We used the Bureau of Meteorology Mackay Coast Waters Forecast: Bowen to St Lawrence (http://www.bom.gov.au/qld/forecasts/mackay-coast.shtml) and found it slightly pessimistic when describing the weather three days out, but very accurate over a two day forecast. So far the tides have had the most impact, not the wind, and we have planned whenever possible to use them to assist our passage.
The Admiral and I were uncertain about how far east the wind might go, and not wanting to really retrace our steps we decided to head south to Lindeman and Shaw Islands. We left at about 1000 and sailed down to Plantation Bay, on the south and eastern side of Lindeman Island. We arrived early afternoon just as the wind was picking up and anchored central to the beach and the bay, just around low tide. At this stage we were the third boat in the anchorage!
The Admiral prepared sandwiches with fresh bakery bread, cheese, ham and salad while Cabin Boy and I experimented with the spinnaker pole and a cheap $12 (inclusive of postage from China) Ebay purchased hammock. On inspection we both decided that although it was rated to 100 kg, that it would be for Cabin Boys’ use only!
After lunch we jumped into the dinghy and headed across to the beach. Central to the beach, and well back from the high water mark, was a large cache of rubbish that someone had collected and placed in a half dozen large PVC/polyester heavy duty sacks for collection with a small sign with the boat name and date of collection and reporting to National Parks. Great stuff! We then did a long beach comb and Cabin Boy found his best shell of the trip.
Back to the boat for an entertaining afternoon watching another dozen yachts come into the anchorage, as well as a charter catamaran take 40 min to set his anchor. By now the wind had increased and bullets were coming through the bay between 15-20 knots with the wind swinging from northwest though to east. We were in about 7 metres of water and had all our chain, 19 metres, and the same amount of rope out.
DAY 13 – SAT 30 SEP
Plantation Bay, Lindeman Is to Nara Inlet, Hook Is
Not a very restful nights sleep 😦
The wind picked up during the evening and swung from every where, and we were surrounded with different types and sizes of vessels which all arrived late, with a couple anchoring too close for my comfort. The boat’s motion, also effected by tide, made for a very disrupted evening. We have stayed at this anchorage before and hadn’t experienced this previously. This was unamounsly voted the worst nights sleep of the trip.
I was up very early, 0500, and was able to retrieve the BOM forecast on the phone. 10-15 knots northerly, seas building to 1 metre, swell below 1 metre. 30% chance of rain. The forecast for Sunday was 10-15 knots northerly, turning east to northeast, with seas and swell building (from east to southeast), 60% change of rain with thunderstorms in the morning. Mondays forecast was worse with 15-20 knots variable, more rain, thunderstorms morning and afternoon and combined sea and swell of 2.5 metres.
The Admiral and Cabin Boy were due to fly back home on Tuesday 3 October from Hamilton Island, which was our only hard commitment. After a quick discussion, and definitely influenced by a bad nights sleep – and not wanting to spoil what had been a great holiday to date for Cabin Boy– we decided to leave early and get as far north as was comfortable so that we could position ourselves to be at either Hamilton Island or Airlie Beach by Sunday night before the weather turned. The Admiral was not keen on the idea that I would continue on for a few days by myself after they flew out, or that I might get stuck at Hamilton Island if the weather turned.
With Cabin Boy still asleep in the V berth we packed up the main cabin and decided to head off at first light . . .
I love and I hate the 6 kg ROCNA anchor.
I love that it sets well and has never let us down. I hate that after a blow it is a bugger to retrieve. For the first time this trip we had to motor off the anchor. I was able to retrieve all rope and most of the chain, leaving about 12 metres down before realising that it was well and truly stuck. Tying off the chain we motored forward and over the anchor, and then left and right in an arc around it in an attempt to free it. It was very interesting watching the bow of the boat sink lower in the water as the Admiral put the power on to drive us off! It took a good 10 minutes to get free. On inspection it was clear that the anchor had buried itself so deep that the roll bar was completely covered. There was no coral or rock in the anchorage – but we certainly brought up a lot of mud! We were also pleased how well our anchoring was working, 2/3 throttle in reverse, to really bed it in.
It was great to have the freedom, to leave and depart when we wanted to. As we slipped out of the anchorage, having breakfast in the cockpit as Cabin Boy slept, we really appreciated the boat and the opportunity to have this holiday as a family.
Leaving so early, the wind was less than 5 knots from the north, so we motor sailed past Pentecost Island – a great land mark and one we have always enjoyed passing.
As the day went on the wind was confused – moving from northwest to southeast, then still and hot. It really felt that a change was coming. We clarified the remainder of the trip – head to back to Nara Inlet which was the most protected anchorage, then head to Airlie Beach on Sunday and aim to be tied up by the time any change or thunderstorms arrived. The Admiral and Cabin Boy had not visited Airlie before so it would be new to them, and they could get a fast cat ferry from Airlie to Hamilton Island on Tuesday in time to fly out. Lots of options! The Admiral’s back was also beginning to play up.
We diverted back to Hamilton Island and took one of the two public moorings in Dent Passage, so that we could dinghy in and get some last minute provisions and I wanted to take on some additional fuel, which I had been running down. Just in case we needed to motor all the way back to Airlie.
The entrance to Hamilton Island Marina was a zoo! A half dozen yachts milling around waiting for the concierge service to guide them to a berth, and another half dozen waiting for the fuel wharf to become available. There was a chap in a tender who stopped us on the way in, asking if we had radioed ahead, did we have permission and had we paid the $15 landing fee? We explained we were going to grab 20 litres of fuel, dump a bag of rubbish, buy a coffee and then be gone in under an hour. He spent a few minutes on the VHF, before telling us that the marina was full. I asked if we could tie up at F Arm near the IGA and I would walk the fuel can across to the fuel jetty. More radio discussion. Then he agreed that we could enter – but then was too busy to take our money!
We headed across to F Arm, directly opposite the new IGA and tied up next to the fire hydrant. It was far quicker to walk fuel container across then play Russian roulette with the power boats drawing thousands of litres of diesel.
The new IGA is bigger than our local supermarket at home and has a great range plus a bottle shop. As with everything on the Island it is more expensive – but not unreasonably so.
With coffee in hand we headed back and took off for Nara Inlet. We raised sails again but the winds were on the nose so it was a motor sail again. The outboard has been a real champion and having it in a well on the centre line makes a huge difference – much better than on the Farr 6000 when we could only motor sail on a port tack!
We had lunch underway as we motor sailed through Cid Harbour, keeping a close lookout for whales or dolphins. 😦 Nothing seen.
We arrived into Nara Inlet late in the mid afternoon. The flukey weather reports had lead to everyone else on the water choosing Nara and racing for an anchorage as well. We were entering the narrow channel into Nara, doing 4.5 knots under motor while I was pulling down the main, to be overtaken by a 50’ motor cruiser with a wake that you could surf down, racing for a prime spot. Some discussions about stink boats was had!
We anchored back in Refuge Bay. Cabin Boy and I headed off in the dinghy to look for the Ngaro Cultural Site at the head of the inlet while the Admiral had some quiet time.
We had no problems finding the site. There was a great walkway/board walk with three rest areas as you climb about 200 metres up to the cave art. There were lots of information boards and a talking display which added to the experience.
An hour or so later we returned to Quo Vadis for snacks, before the Admiral and Cabin set off in the dinghy for some last beach combing. They saw two small sharks, which reinforced for us the don’t swim in Nara Inlet rule!
Another game of cards, some reading and then an early night, with promises to wake Cabin Boy if we heard any hunting dolphins during the night.
This was our longest day both in distance and time motoring. About 26 nm.
DAY 14 – SUN 1 OCT
Nara Inlet, Hook Island to Airlie Beach, Mainland
What a difference a great nights sleep makes! We had a leisurely morning as we couldn’t arrive at Abell Point Marina before 1300.
The Admiral then made crepes with lemon & sugar; or strawberries, banana and maple syrup!
The weather report was for 10-15 knot northerly’s turning east to northeast with the same chance of rain and thunderstorms for the following day. It was hot and stifling in the anchorage. We had planned to sail off the anchor however it was well and truly buried again. We might have overdone setting it the night prior! We had to motor forward and over the anchor before we could get it to free – nothing like the day prior – but still irritating. As the Admiral pointed out, at least we are not going to drag!
We sailed out of Nara and then headed west for Airlie Beach, heading around the north end of North Mole Island.
It was quite a difficult sail across. At times completely still, other times 15 knots. The interaction of wind against tide and swell made for some confused seas and by the time we got to Pioneer Point the Admiral was quite ill. Cabin Boy reckons he never gets sea sick – its true – he just falls asleep before it sets in!
When boat speed fell below 3.5 knots we started the motor and motor sailed the remainder of the way.
As with Hamilton, Abell Point Marina was very busy when we arrived. There was a half hour delay for the fuel wharf, a queue of chart boats returning at the end of the holidays and a series of charter boats undergoing evolutions and training outside the marina before being let loose on an unsuspecting public!
The atmosphere and staff at Abell Point Marina are head and shoulders above anywhere else we have stayed. I radioed in when we were 30 minutes away to ask for our berthing details. They responded with my first name, welcomed me back, noted that I had left as a solo sailor and offered to have a guide take me in and to have someone on hand to take lines. We took the option of their Ocean Club for an additional $10 a day. This gives access to a separate laundry, showers, tea/coffee, BBQ and sitting area on a floating section on their southern most marina (Q Arm), away from the noise of the restaurant’s. Well worth the extra! We were allocated a berth on the southern side of the marina on T Arm among the live on cruisers.
Cabin Boy, who is now always hungry, and complaining of wasting away, we walked across to the restaurant/pub at the northern end of Abell Point for pizza for him (what else?).
After a late lunch we walked into town along the board walk and discovered the Airlie Beach Lagoon – a public swimming area on the foreshore. Absolutely brilliant for families. Cabin Boy swam for hundreds of metres, shark free he tells us, while we grabbed some books from the second hand bookshop that over looks the pools.
We made it back to the boat, and had just got the awnings up when the heavens opened for the forecast afternoon storm and rain!
We decided to have a dinner at the restaurant at the southern end of the marina – Hemmingways. Not cheap but a great night out – thank you Admiral!
DAY 15 – MON 2 OCT
Overcast day with fluky weather. In hindsight there was nothing life or boat threatening about staying on the water, however it was the right time to be ashore. The Admiral spent most of the day off the boat which allowed her to stretch out her back. Cabin Boy immersed himself in the Matthew Riley books we bought for him and we all started chipping away at packing the boat up. The two of them started the day with a long walk back out to the Lagoon for a swim.
The Admiral and I caught a cab out to Whitsunday Caravan and Camping. Even though it was a long weekend in Queensland, the owner opened up so that we could get the car out. We then went for a drive through Airlie Beach, Port of Airlie and out to Shute Harbour to have a look around. There were some very nice areas. Cabin Boy stayed on board as anchor watch.
We had a great walk around the marina looking at the various boats. At least we might be able to afford some of the boats at Abell Point – we had no hope in ever being able to afford anything at Hamo! We met some great live aboard people and I ended up having drinks aboard a Bavaria 44 which had circumnavigated and was now with new owners cruising the east coast.
Lots of jobs done – Zodiac washed and packed up, its outboard washed and flushed, garbage and food off, sails folded and stowed in preparation for departure.
DAY 16 – TUE 3 OCT
Ferries, Flights and Driving South
It was an early morning start for the Admiral and I. Cabin Boy slept in (again!). We dropped the mast while alongside in the marina at first light and stowed everything to go. After breakfast we jumped in the car and I drove them both over to Port of Airlie where they boarded the fast ferry for Hamilton Island. It was a really slick operation – with check in counters and baggage conveyors similar to an airline terminal. The Admiral noted that in all her extensive travels she has never taken a ferry to an airport terminal before! It was a quick trip across, with the ferry going to Hamilton Island Marina before dropping them off at the airport jetty.
After farewelling the crew I drove off and collected the trailer. By 1100 the boat was safely on its trailer, I had showered and checked out of the marina and was on my way south. The Admiral and Cabin Boy flew into Sydney where Cabin Boy was handed over to the Patriach to stay in the Blue Mountains for a few days. The Admiral then flew onto Canberra and back to work.
I was not so impressed with the inland route on the way up – 2050 km and 2 ½ long days, via the Newell and Leichhardt Highways – and which cost me about $500 in repairs to the trailer. This included some welding to improve the mounting points where the weight distribution hitch connected to the trailer; replace a side light which had vibrated off; and the replacement Hayman Reese hangers ($280!) which deformed on the undulating road between Goondiwindi and Wandoan.
I had high hopes for the coastal road on the way home. I was a bit concerned that I would be driving at the end of the NSW school holidays but that couldn’t be helped. So I planned to do it in 3 ½ days.
After leaving Airlie Beach at 1100 I planned a short day to get as far south as Rockhampton – just under 500km and it took me about 5 ½ hours. The Bruce Highway is fine – still single lane for a large percentage however it has a wide painted median strip dividing the lanes which gives good separation from oncoming trucks, and the line markings and straight road make overtaking easy. Stopped a couple of times for a good lunch and coffees. I stayed at a caravan park at in Rockhampton (Discovery Holiday Park) – pretty disappointing – Police attended twice during the night to deal with a DV issue two cabins up and someone decided they wanted my towel and toiletry bag more than me in the morning
DAY 17 – WED 4 OCT
Left Rockhampton and headed for the Sunshine Coast to stay with a mate. Again road was good with dual carriage way for a good percentage. There was extensive roadworks south of Rockhampton and further south which added probably ¾ of an hour to the trip. No issues and an easy drive. 520 km; about 7 hours including breaks.
DAY 18 – THU 5 OCT
After discussing with friends I left the Sunshine Coast early at 0630 and just followed the Sunshine Motorway, Pacific Motorway and Pacific Highway south. I wanted to get as far south as I could as I didn’t want to be transiting through SYD late on the last Friday of the school holidays. Traffic through and around BNE was slow. Bad time of day. Not difficult – just slow! I arrived into Bulahdelah NSW (80 km north of Newcastle) at 1730. 820 km. There is lots of roadworks in southern QLD and northern NSW, however I reckon over 70% of the drive today was spent on dual carriageway. Bulahdelah was a great place to stay. Good motels, small town, good pub and a few restaurants, two fuel stations with easy access when towing.
DAY 19 – FRI 6 OCT
This was the part I was dreading. The 12km of Pennant Hills Road / Cumberland Highway – a really crap section of dual lane suburban road linking the bottom of the M1 at Wahroonga with the M2, M7, and then the Hume Highway. I had a sleep in as I didn’t want to hit Pennant Hills Rd until 1100 – 1300, after the morning peak and before the evening peak. Hit it exactly at 1100 and it took me 40 minutes for 12 km. There is no good time really! Left at 0900 and arrived back in CBR at 1500. 520 km.
Total distance 2330 km versus the 2050km of the inland route. However my average speed was 85 km/hr for the coastal leg, including the time spent waiting for roadworks and in BNE and SYD traffic.
I found the coastal road much better – wider, most of it dual carriageway, more stops, more interesting, much smoother and better road surface. It is of course hilly in parts – but there are overtaking lanes. We also don’t need to go up every hill at 110 km/hr! I really enjoyed the drive down the coastal road and reckon that the extra time and distance is more than worth it. I won’t do the inland route again. My memories of the coast road were really dated and don’t reflect the road it is today. When the extensive road works are complete it will be a stellar drive. It would be even faster if not done during school holidays! Bottom line – easier on driver, car and trailer! Also nothing inside boat shifted from shelves, berths when I checked on arrival.
It is five days since we finished the holiday and we are unanimous that it is one of the best that we have had. We all contributed in some way – from preparing the boat, to provisioning, and planning where we would go and what we would see. We spent 10 nights on the boat, on the water, as a family (I spent 12 nights on the water, plus another two nights while travelling). This was long enough and in hindsight it may have been better to take a motel room during one of the marina stays, even if only for a night.
The Admiral loved the trip but is not sure that we would do it again on our own boat. She would like something bigger – this is very laudable and is to be encouraged! We love the Whitsunday’s area and are keen to do it again – most likely with a charter boat. During one of the walks around the marina we were given the opportunity to have a good look at a Seawind 1160 charter catermaran. We would be keen to do this – either with another family, or to take along a friend for Cabin Boy. I would happily do it on our boat again.
There are few regrets from this trip. I think that in the early part of the trip we missed a very benign weather window that may have allowed us to get out to the Outer Reef and spend the night at Bait Reef. Towards the end of the trip the weather was not stable enough to allow this.
We were really impressed with the boat and how it handled the range of conditions. There are a few things that we would do differently.
- Sort out the solar panels better! They did not perform as I had hoped, mainly due to the way I had them wired. Next time I will have them switchable with a panel dedicated for each battery, with the option of combining both panels into the large house battery (120 Amp AGM). It was irritating to lose the fridge after 48-72 hours due to insufficient battery charge.
- Get a our own tender. The borrowed Zodiac was excellent, as was the 8 hp 2 stroke engine. However they were big and heavy – 3.1 m long, 31 kg and an additional 27 kg for the engine. Too big to stow on board which meant that we towed it everywhere. A smaller, lighter tender (2.7 m), with a lightweight outboard (2.3 hp 4 stroke Honda ~ 12kg) would allow us to stow the engine on a rail and put the dinghy on board for longer faster passages. If the weather had turned I was concerned about towing all this behind us.
- Anchor Chain. I had 9 metres of 8 mm chain, 10 metres of 6 mm chain and then 50 metres of 12mm nylon rope. The depths we anchored in ranged from 2 – 12 metres. In two of the deeper anchorages I would have been happier with a bit more chain, not for weight, but because of the presence of coral and concerns that I might chafe the nylon rode. 25 metres of 6 mm chain would be excellent.
- Outside BBQ. We have a Cobb Cooker however I couldn’t get it to fit in the external lockers so did not take it. It would have been good to have an outside BBQ where we could could cook meat (steak) to keep odours and heat out of the cabin.
- Bedding. Quo Vadis came with an additional insert cushion to turn the entire main cabin into a berth. It was a pain to set up and stow. On top of this we then had an additional mattress topper. In hindsight I would leave both of these at home and just use the starboard berth for myself.
The provisioning that the Admiral did was excellent. We had great meals on board – why does everything at sea taste better? We kept a separate supply of at least four days food and water in case we got stuck in an anchorage due to weather.
Some statistics for the trip:
Distance Towed: 4,532 km
Diesel Consumed: 677 litres
Driving time: 54 hours
Average speed: 85 km/hr
Fuel average: 14.6 litres / 100 km
Distance Sailed: 135 nm (250 km)
Petrol Consumed: 40 litres + 25 litres (2 stroke)
Methylated Spirits: 3 litres (stove)
Was it worth it? Yes!