Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Airlie Beach continued

We're still at Abel Point marina, "sailing around the pen" as the strong winds continue.  The first couple of days were windy but sunny, but since then it's been both windy and rainy.  Glad we got here when we did!

We've reprovisioned the boat and done a bunch of maintenance jobs.  The to-do list continues to shorten.  Best of all we now have cockpit speakers which will be great on long watches.

Zen Again at Abel Point
Abel Point Marina
Also here at Abel Point are Peter and Paula on Valhalla.  We first met them at Coffs Harbour and it was nice to find them here.

We expect to escape the Whitsundays on Friday and head directly for Yorkies Knob near Cairns.  Should be a passage of two full days, perhaps longer if the wind dies altogether.  Winds are meant to be moderating from Friday but should hold in long enough for us.

One item waiting for us in Cairns will be a new fridge for the boat.  The existing unit is very, very old and still works.  However it draws an extra amp with every month which goes by, so will surely not last much longer.  It will be good to have a fridge we can run without the engine on.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Airlie Beach

Instead of Laguna Quays we're at Abel Point Marina at Airlie Beach.  It turns out Laguna Quay's entrance channel is badly silted and we would only get in on a high tide.  So we pushed on to the Whitsundays proper, arriving at 2pm after a 26 hour passage from Middle Percy Island.

It was an interesting sail with light winds yesterday and strong winds from the early hours of this morning.  'Twas fun zigzagging through the islands south of the Whitsundays in the light airs and exciting doing the same in the Whitsundays islands themselves in the strong winds.

We'll spend a few days here restocking, doing a few minor maintenance jobs and collecting our mail from Laguna Quays.

Photos to follow after we've had some sleep!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Middle Percy Island

This morning we motored across the glassed-out channel between South Percy and Middle Percy Islands. Dead calm. 'Twas only 7nm and we anchored at West Bay at 0920. The water was flat, crystal clear and 23C so we had the first swim of our voyage so far. Fantastic.

Anchor chain and reflections
After lunch we rowed in to the beach to take a look at the famous huts full of memorabilia left by yachts since the 50's (probably earlier). We spent the morning preparing a simple wooden plaque recording Zen Again's visit. Hopefully it will be around for a few years. A yacht crew who have been here for several days opened a coconut and we tasted our first ever coconut "au naturelle". Could be addictive.

West Bay, Middle Percy Island
The original hut
The relatively new A-frame hut (aka "Percy Hilton")
The informative welcome board
A tiny sample of the memorabilia
Vegetation on the island
Winds are expected to return tomorrow, when we expect to head for Laguna Quays overnight, arriving Thursday.

Monday, 20 June 2011

South Percy Island

Today we motored the 45nm from Island Head to South Percy Island. The weather forecast was for light south easterlies, and that's exactly what we had. So we motored along in exactly zero apparent wind. At least the drinks are cold and the batteries are fully charged.
Passing Steep Island enroute to South Percy Island
We anchored just after dark in North West Bay. There's just one other yacht here. It will be interesting to see exactly how close to the beach we are in the morning. Hard to judge at night. We relied on the depth contours, assisted by radar.

North West Bay, South Percy Island
Our two days at Island Head were great. Yesterday we went ashore for a walk along the beach. Lots of trees on the edge of the beach appear to have been undermined and have fallen down recently - presumably during the summer cyclones & floods.

Island Head Creek beach with many dead trees
We got a few jobs done on the boat: connected three fans in the cabin; constructed tackle to hold the boom steady at anchor (rather than using the mainsheet); constructed outboard motor canvas cover; assembled a dinghy anchor; fitted a bridle to the dinghy so we can more easily launch and retrieve it). The sort of little jobs done to make life aboard easier. But mostly it was a relaxing couple of days in a place we visited last time around and really like.

Tomorrow we expect more light winds, so will probably motor over to Middle Percy Island. Winds are supposed to pick up on Wednesday when we hope to head for Laguna Quays. Regardless of the winds, it remains unusually cool. We're nearly at the Whitsundays but are wearing our Musto Snugs still!

Departing Island Head, passing islets inside entrance

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Island Head

This morning we motored the ~8nm from Pearl Bay to Island Head. 'Twas a good opportunity to run the fridge, and the last 2nm were passing through the entrance to the creek which is narrow, shallow and tidal.
Approaching Island Head from the south
Although there was only a 10kt wind outside there was 20+ inside as it funnelled down the creek.
The entrance to Island Head is fun since one has to run very close to some rocky islets (only 20m away).  We had about 1.5knots of current behind us and 25knots of wind against us which made it more interesting. The depths were as described by Lucas.

View up the minor creek where we anchored
We anchored in the first offshoot of the main creek on the western side where we were sheltered from the wind blowing down the creek. We anchored in 5.5m in a creek about 500m wide. This afternoon (at low tide) it was less than 200m wide and we were in 3m. Happily we found the deep spot! :)

Sunset view at low tide
We are alone in this anchorage, with one other yacht in sight on the other side of the main creek and one more around the corner in the main creek on this side.

We had a very pleasant day watching the world go by. Sea eagles, egrets, herons, terns, gannets and various unidentified waders. Around sunset we sat in the cockpit and spotted a pair of dugongs swimming up and down our little creek (theirs really!). We managed to get a photo of one of these shy creatures. Mostly they just poke their snouts out of the water to breathe, but the lucky shot shows its whole head and its tail.

We'll be staying here until Monday and will go ashore for a walk tomorrow.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Pearl Bay

Today we had a great sail from Great Keppel Island to Pearl Bay. Departed 0630 and arrived 1500. Logged 51nm through the water and 46 over the ground. A nice SW breeze held in for most of the trip, with just an hour or so at the end "to run the fridge".

Approaching channel to anchorage
We passed the entrance to Port Clinton quite close, then motor-sailed between the mainland and Entrance Island and then Delcomyn Island. A spectacular coastline, and more so close up. From there we went around White Rock (strangely black in colour) and through the pass into Pearl Bay. We had to push against the tide for the last two hours, with up to 2 knots against us. Slight overfalls in places.

Pearl Bay anchorage
Pearl Bay is spectacular. Several sea eagles in residence. Steep rocky shorelines mixed with sandy beaches. The hills are covered in pines and wattle. The wattle is in bloom and the smell is quite something. We're here with seven other yachts but it is very quiet. Leekes Beach had constant sound of surf on the beach, but here it is absolutely silent apart from the occasional calling of the sea eagles or the motor of another yacht arriving.

Sunset at Pearl Bay
Pearl Bay is part of the Shoalwater Bay military area.  During our stay much of the area was closed due to live firing.  Hence the smoky sunset!  The area will be entirely closed throughout July for the Talisman Sabre military exercises.

Tomorrow afternoon we expect to move north to Island Head. It's only a short hop so we will get a lie in for a change!

Pearl Bay

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Great Keppel Island

Today we sailed the 30nm from Cape Capricorn to Leekes Beach on Great Keppel Island.  The wind held in all the way, giving us a very nice close reach.  Apart from the cool breeze it was perfect.

Anchored at Leekes Beach, Great Keppel Island
This afternoon we went ashore and had a very pleasant walk along the beach.  At the western end we could see the passage we passed through this morning, and at the eastern end we explored the lagoon.

Passage betweeen GKI and Middle Island
from western end of Leekes Beach at low water springs
The anchorage from the western end of Leekes Beach
Mouth of the lagoon at low water springs
After the walk we repaired aboard to enjoy an Inner Circle rum and coke, a Scotch and soda, and glorious sunset...

Sunset over the mainland from GKI
Tomorrow we intend to sail on to Pearl Bay, a passage of about 45nm.

Hope all's well where you are!  :)

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Yellow Patch

We decided to stay another night at Cape Capricorn since the light northerly winds are persisting. At least they are light, and we're not getting the storms and rain being experienced further south. It is certainly unseasonally cool and the SE trades are nowhere to be been.

Motoring up the creek

With another day here we decided to join Peter and Chris from Splash and dinghy in to visit the Yellow Patch. This spectacular sand drift is beside a creek which is quite shallow to enter, so we each took our dinghies. The tide was ebbing fast and it took a while to get in with our little 3.5HP Nissan outboard. It was worth it - the Patch is spectacular. We scrambled to the top and the view, particularly to the north, is fantastic. Serried ranks of islands stretching into the distance. The Patch is an amazing colour, ranging from yellow to orange depending on the light.

On the beach
The trip back to the boat was at nearly low tide and we had a fun time pathfinding our way out of the creek. The round trip consumed a full tank of fuel in our little outboard but gave it good run.

View from the top of Yellow Patch
Tomorrow we expect more light winds, but they may have some south in them. We plan a short passage to Great Keppel Island. Should be fun!

View of creek from top of Patch at (approx) 1 hour before low water springs

Cape Capricorn

On Tuesday we had a great passage from Pancake Creek to Cape Capricorn. We spent a lot of time "with the fridge on" (ie motoring), but the last hour or so was a great sail. Before leaving Pancake Creek we met Sally and Phil from Amaris. Their 35 foot steel sloop was home built, and very beautifully done it is too.

Zen Again at Pancake Creek
We departed Pancake Creek at 0630 in a very light WNW breeze. We motor-sailed most of the way with the breeze going around to the North for a short period. For an hour or so there was no breeze and the sea "glassed out" - always spectacular.

The sail for the last hour was so good we took turns helming the boat, with the other trimming the sails. A sure sign of a lovely sail! Normally we let the autopilot or wind vane steer. The boat was doing 6 knots beating into a 10 knot breeze with the full main and the little No 3 jib.

We anchored along with Splash, Smart Move and several other boats, in the little bay on the north side of Cape Capricorn. No prizes for guessing why it is so called (see latitude of our position report). The anchorage was a little rolly, but then it is open to the north and west.

Moonrise over Cape Capricorn
Cape Capricorn is quite spectacular, and from the anchorage an array of islands is visible. The nearest is Hummocky Island but one can see the Keppel Islands in the distance.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Pancake Creek Day 2

Day two at Pancake Creek was occupied with relaxing and cleaning up the boat.  We are now further up the creek (so to speak) at the more protected anchorage.  We motored up on the high tide yesterday afternoon.  We found Smart Move and Splash there - the two boats we sailed with from Coffs Harbour to Southport.

Today started very well with a bacon and egg breakfast.  We love the smell of bacon in the morning!

Bacon breakfast
Best of all it had stopped raining and the sun reappeared.  We spent the morning cleaning the boat and drying our gear after yesterday's soaking.  There are about a dozen boats in the creek.  The tide runs quite fast - up to about 2 knots.  With the strong wind last night I suspect a lot of skippers were on anchor watch at each turn of the tide to check their boats were staying put, and clear of neighbours.

Drying out in Pancake Creek
We spent much of the afternoon on Splash where we met the folks from the yacht Amaris.  A very pleasant afternoon.  Peter kindly collected us in his dinghy since our outboard refused to start.  Rowing a flat bottomed dinghy against the current wouldn't have been wise.  The outboard finally started after we returned to Zen Again.  I don't think it appreciated yesterday's soaking rain.  We've added making a cover for it to the to-do list.  Being aboard Splash gave us a chance to get some pictures of Zen Again...

Late afternoon in Pancake Creek
We expect to remain here until Tuesday when we'll continue north.  Perhaps direct to Island Head or possibly to somewhere closer.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Pancake Creek

We're now at anchor in Pancake Creek (24 01.6S 151 44.2E) in persistent rain and 11 degrees C temperature.  Feels like we're in Albany WA, not sunny Queensland!  That aside it's great to have moved further north and be on our way again.

We logged 284nm through the water from Mooloolaba compared to about 240nm over the ground.  That is, we were set back over 40nm by adverse currents.  Put another way, our average boat speed was 6 knots but we averaged 5 over the ground.  We had 0.5 knots against us from Mooloolaba until half way up Fraser Island.  There the current increased to 3 knots against us.  An hour or so later the wind died so we had to motor into the current for about 4 hours.  It felt like we'd be there forever, but eventually we rounded the spit.

The leg through the Curtis Channel and then to Pancake Creek was initially a nice beam reach in 10-15 knots of wind.  Then it started raining and the wind built to 25 knots or so.  It was great to sail into the creek and drop anchor.  At the moment we're in the lower creek since the best anchorage can only be reached when the tide comes in.  We'll move up there sometime.

According to the weather forecasts the rain won't stop until Tuesday.  Just as well we have plenty of reading material!

Hope all's well where you are.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Rounding Fraser Island

We had a great sail yesterday and last night. Nice SW breeze. Spoilt only by a very cool breeze and overcast sky.

We're now past Fraser Island but have yet to round Breaksea Spit - the shoals north of Fraser Island. We've been pushing against a lot of current/tide for the last 6 hours - doing six knot through the water but three over the ground. Slow progress!

Looking forward to turning the corner and getting out of the adverse current!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Back at Mooloolaba Marina

This morning we departed Lawrie's Boat Services yard and motored down the canal to Mooloolaba Marina.  Three weeks of hard work completed.

The mast was stepped on Thursday.  Very straight-forward operation when done by experts with a crane!

Mast approaching
The mast was stepped after warping the boat into the travel-lift bay since the engine was still in bits.

Mast up (note unpainted spreaders)
The engine was restored to operation on Friday.  Thanks to Mick from Ashby Boat Builders.  We decided to spend the weekend at Lawrie's so that on Monday Jason from Ashby's could finish work on sealing the head compartment bilge.

Alongside the work jetty at Lawrie's

So we're now at Mooloolaba Marina and will spend two night here.  On Thursday we intend to head towards Pancake Creek (~30nm south of Gladstone).  While Lawrie's was close to the big shopping mall, the marina is close to the beach and the town centre.  The latter has many cafes and we intend to sample one or two before leaving.

On B jetty at Mooloolaba Yacht Club Marina
While our stay at Lawrie's was fun, it's great to be away from the noise and dirt of a boat yard.  'Twill be even better to set sail...

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Mooloolaba Work Nearly Complete?

Zen Again is still alongside the work jetty at Lawrie's Boat Services.  We're booked to have the mast stepped at 1330 tomorrow.  Wish us luck!  If all goes well we'll be in the yacht club marina tomorrow evening.

Fabrication of our mast repairs has been carried out by Aqua-Tec, based on advice from rigger Greg Gilliam and project managed by Adam Ashby.  Here are some photos...

New mounting plates, deck light and polished lower spreaders
Reinforced upper spreader trailing edge
And here's a photo of the masthead featuring a new VHF antenna and no wind instrument...

New masthead fittings
On the engine front, we now have a new exhaust system and the engine is being fully serviced by Adam Ashby's mechanics.  The water pump bearings and seal are being replaced, and we've replaced the high-pressure oil pipes as well as the usual oil, filters etc.  Replacing the exhaust was an adventure since the old wetbox/waterlock was hidden in a compartment behind the engine.  Yours truly was the only person skinny enough to get at it...

Old waterlocks (metal unit in foreground and blue plastic in background)
Old waterlock removed from "coffin-like" compartment
New Vetus waterlock (grey plastic) installed
While the local experts have been at work we've got a number of jobs done ourselves.  Installed two new water bladders in the forepeak, doubling our fresh water capacity.  Installed an electric bilge pump controller which provides central control over bilge pumps in the head, main cabin and engine sump.  Removed and lubricated the Aries vane gear.  Fabricated a new floor to fit in the lazarette to support the life raft.  Polished the deck gelcoat and stainless fittings.

In short, if we get any more jobs done the to-do list will be looking positively short, which can't be a good thing.  Nearly time to go sailing again!