Monday, October 20, 2014

Up to Townsville and Trying to Get South

We came north to Townsville to find our friends on ZENITUDE and go exploring the Barrier Reef.  We thought there would be more time to spend here and more calmer days to anchor out at the reef but the wind was blowing strong.  Oscar had water pump problems with his dinghy engine so we fixed that but he had to take the ferry to Townsville twice to get parts.  This delayed us to the point that if we took the next calm period, we would not be able to head back to the Whitsundays for at least 2 more weeks.   

Booker, Jane, and Phil
We went in to the Nelly Bay Marina for 5 days to get away from the rolling swell in Horseshoe.  The days were spent hauling diesel from the petrol station, grocery shopping, washing the boat, and doing preventative maintenance.  We met some backpackers, Phil and Jane, partied, and spent some time walking about.

The top of a Stepping Stone

We used the north wind and had a nice 24 hour trip down to Bait Reef.  We sailed the entire time except for 5 hours when it got calm. 

The reef was really nice.  The Stepping Stones are a row of maybe 10 giant flat topped coral heads about 50 feet high and 20 feet in diameter.  The coral was beautiful, the water crystal clear, and heaps of fish.  We were using a Marine Park mooring so as to not destroy the coral.  One sweep of our anchor chain across the bottom can wipe out a thousand years of coral growth in a minute.
Our fish friend. He let us touch him. No worries.

We left the following day and went to Whitehaven Bay.  The last place on our checklist of anchorages in the Whitsundays.  The beach was beautiful white sand but very crowded with tourist boats during the day.

The plan was to start south when the winds would allow.  The normal wind pattern has been to have 3-4 hours of calm in the morning that we could use to motor to the next place.  We were passing Burning Point on Shaw Island and got a call on the radio from our friends, Terry and Elaine, on Virgos Child.  They were anchored there with Colin and Sjani on Shikama.  We dropped anchor next to them and ended up spending the next 2 weeks with them there and in the Mackay Marina.

Booker on Whitehaven Beach
We waited 10 days in Mackay paying $75/day for the berth.  Ouch.  Finally things looked good and we headed out only to find the winds on our nose.  We turned northeast and went to anchor at Scawfell Island.  We saw some incredibly large sea turtles in the anchorages.

The 100 mile stretch of coast south of Mackay is a difficult passage.  The 20+ foot tides cause strong currents that run counter to the winds, at least twice a day.   Cape Townshend, is not quite like Cape Hatteras but is nothing to mess around with.  The currents whip around the Cape and there are always steep short period waves that are called 'overfalls'.  You need to time the tides for your passage around the cape.  

Whitehaven Beach
We left Scawfell and were able to sail for most of the day.  We were doing well until passing the Percy Islands at sunset and had an unexpected 2 knot current reversal.  We went from 8 to 4 knots.  We wanted to pass Cape Townshend at midnight for the tides so we fired up the diesels to keep our speed at 8 knots.  At 11PM we heard on the radio a very worried 'bloke' on QUE SERA calling for help.  Nobody was answering so we called him back to see what was going on.  He had lost his engine and couldn't sail faster than the current.   His position was 5 miles from us, closer to the land, about 1 mile from the rocks and being pulled into 'Thirsty Sound'.  We diverted to his position, dropped our sails, and stood by in case he was grounded.  When the tide changed at midnight he was able to make headway and headed south along with us and another boat, ANDIAMO.
Mackay Marina... notice the height of the pilings... huge tides.

After Cape Townshend we saw no reason to stop anywhere so we continued for another day and arrived at Bundaberg just in time for thunderstorms to dump rain and wind on us when trying to get docked.  We stayed at the Bundaberg Marina, $65/day, for 2 days and headed to the Great Sandy Straits between Fraser Island and the mainland.  We anchored at Moon Point, were greeted by more sea turtles, and had a nice night.

It takes a full day to make it down the Straits to Wide Bay where we once again enter the ocean.  A high pressure over the Tasman Sea is reinforcing the tradewinds and are forecast to blow hard from the southeast for 5-6 days.

Our options are to go hide behind an islet for that time or head 16 miles up the Mary River to historic Maryborough and explore.  We chose Maryborough.

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