Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Over Night on Smooth Water

It's Aug 8th now and we have been motoring for three days and haven't turned the boat's stabilizers on once! The water is that smooth. One whole week of fabulous weather


Currently we are on a 60 hour nonstop passage that is taking us from the Percy's right into the Broadwater by Jacob's Well.  We are taking advantage of our last two full days of forecasted good weather. Our route is past Gladstone and Keppel Island, Bundaberg, around the outside of Fraser Island and the Great Sandy Strait, past Mooloolaba and Brisbane, through Moreton Bay and into the Broadwater, which will have us only a short distance from Sanctuary Cove. Initially we were going to overnight at Keppel Island, then overnight at Lady Musgrave Island, enter into the Great Sandy Strait Marina and hang for a day, then over to the Kingfisher Resort on Fraser Island, do the 4x4 thing on the island again, make our way down the Great Sandy Strait to Tin Can Inlet and wait for the high tide at the Wide Bay Bar, overnight at Noosa Heads, spend a couple of days at Moreton Island before entering the Broadwater back to Sanctuary Cove. But our fine weather is going to run out at the time we would want to cross the Wide Bay Bar, potentially holding us captive for more days than we could afford to spend. Decisions, decisions; boating is an ever changing lifestyle - no plan is ever written in stone (water?).

Glen is in the cockpit fishing. Or maybe I should say, changing lures every 1/2 hour to see if one will work! I have steak out for dinner, I'm not counting on fish.

Traveling South from Whitsunday

Our first day of travel got us to Scawfell Island around 2:30pm. Pulling up to the lee side of an island with a sandy beach is not a Canadian West Coaster's idea of "gunk holeing" (terminology used to describe hopping from anchorage to anchorage on the west coast - I don't know where the saying comes from, but this is what it means), but it is a brilliant day with no wind and smooth water so other than being exposed on three sides we can't tell the difference. In short, it is a story book place to be. We drop down the rubber dingy and scoot in to shore for a walk on the beach. The island is a National Park and nobody lives here. There are three sailing boats in the anchorage, but nobody on shore, so the beach is ours to explore. We enjoyed ourselves a bit too long though. The tide was ebbing (going out) so not only did we have to drag the dingy down the beach to float it, we also had to drag it about 1/2 a mile (exaggeration - just seemed like it) along the ocean floor, now high and dry, to reach the water. Who needs a gym! Nobody is whining though, because this is a "perfect day". Our reward is the viewing of a splendid sun set from our own back yard. I'm telling you, it just doesn't get any better.


It doesn't get any better unless,….. your next day of travel (like ours) brings you to Middle Percy Island after "another" stunning day of bright sun, calm blue ocean and whales performing like they know you are watching. We stopped at Middle Percy on our way north, so even though we were anchored up by 1:00 pm, today we decide to stay on the boat and just soak the "best of Australia" up (I think maybe we are remembering all of our hard work from yesterday too!) A group of humpbacks cruises right up to the anchorage and we have front row seats. We've seen turtles today too. It is a rule now, I can't start dinner until I've watched the sunset. It would be ungrateful and wasteful not to appreciate God's finest works.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

From My Galley Window

From My Galley Window

(A perfect "after sunset" in the Whitsundays, Australia)


Water, shimmering navy blue satin, shot with streaks of dark silver grey. Distant mountains, gun metal grey and closer dotted islands, velvet black, in stark relief. The remnants of the sunset, deepening red gold at the horizon, diluting into a wispy baby blue background ribboned with candy floss pink clouds, culminating in the highest heavens to darkest navy blue. Here and there the bright pin point of an evening light; black silhouettes of sailing ships now resting peacefully at anchor. With each passing minute another layer of night is added until my window becomes black and my vision is held within.


Perfect Conditions in Whitsundays

Hamilton Island Marina in the Whitsundays is a good place to pass some windy days. We spent July 31 and Aug 1 nights there, gave the boat a well deserved bath.  We got together with Oso Blanco both evenings as we will be parting ways when we leave the marina. It is possible that we may never be together again on our boats. One night was a mud crab night, a great treat here. We bought some fresh and cooked them ourselves. What a feast! They are very much like our red rock crabs from the west coast, a very hard stony shell with most of the meat in the claws.


After all of the crappy weather we have had, now we are experiencing Australia's finest. We've been out of Hamilton Island marina for three days now anchored securely at Stonehaven on Hook Island in the Whitsunday Group. With such favorable conditions, putting the whaler into the water was a piece of cake. We've been re-diving our previous sites here. Each time we go under, we find something new and wonderful. On top of our new finds, we can clearly hear the humpbacks calling, they must be close. Diving is an amazing hobby. The visibility is still not so great, though sunlight overhead helps a lot. The currents have fooled us a couple of times, being stronger than we anticipated underwater, but we just adjust our dive to suit. At 68 to 70 degrees in the water, it is cold and we need every bit of sunshine to warm us up between dives. This is the end of our diving in Australia now and we are greedy to see (and hear) as much as we can.


Our anchor winch gave us a bit of concern when we were letting the anchor down. It just quit letting the chain out. Hummmm, wonder if we'll get it back up???? With a bright sunny afternoon at our backs, Glen and I dismantled the winch (mostly Glen, I just pass the tools) to find that the "cones", which are supposed to be free moving, were completely void of grease and stuck together. With grease everywhere, we finished the project, happy to find that there were no left over parts and started everything up to give it a test run. Yeah!! She works!


Today, under another sunshiny sky, we are continuing our way south. It is so hard to leave a beautiful area when you have beautiful conditions, but we are still 500 miles from Sanctuary Cove and need to be there by the end of August. It is also good to travel in beautiful conditions, no wind, no waves, no mess, no stress!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Making Tracks Again

We are making tracks south again today July 29. I have to write the date down every once in awhile as I tend to lose track.  It is a normal travel day, bouncing into the south east swell and being sprayed by the persistent 15 to 20 knot trade winds. It is whale season here. The humpbacks are up for calving. Without even trying, we spot and watch a total of 9 whales along our trip, all are feeding as they are jumping straight out of the water and crashing back in and slapping their tails and flippers. I will never tire of watching these gigantic creatures in their natural homes. When we anchor for the evening at Cape Upstart, we have the opportunity to watch a large manta ray feeding on the ocean surface. He had about a 5 foot wing span and glided through the water like a bird in the air. These creatures are prehistoric and are stunning to see when you are diving.


It's a beautiful evening and we will have a wide open view of the sunset.

Horses in the Tropics

I forgot to title my last update - it should have read "Goodbye Cairns".


The next day we traveled to Magnetic Island Marina. I will sing the praises of the wonderful day. This is "happiness stuff" for power boats heading against the normal flow. The wind was a light breeze, the water was flat with barely a ripple, the sun shone brightly and it was warm. We had the pleasure of watching a couple of humpback whales stage a performance of breeching and slapping the water with their flippers. Although the show was for their purposes of catching food, we like to think it was for us. I whine that we should be diving not traveling and although Glen has the same sentiments, we both know that tomorrow is not going to be a nice day on the water and we certainly don't want to be stuck out, exposed on the reef.


Magnetic Island is a familiar place now as we have been here before. We arrive with enough time to give the boats a splash to dilute the salt then head out for dinner at a Mexican?? Restaurant. The highlight of the meal is the resident possums, dozens of them, that the restaurant owner feeds with taco chips and carrot slices. They are quite entertaining.


The weather man was correct! We woke Wednesday morning to lots of wind and big waves, even inside the marina. So it is nice to be tucked in. I decided it was time for a "horse fix" and joined Ann and Bear for the two hour Bush and Beach ride in the appropriately named, Horseshoe Bay. We hopped the island bus right at the marina gate and jumped off at the ranch gates - efficient. The horses were all respectable riding horses, with peppy attitudes and not too many vices. My steed's name was Kitaboy.  Five riders (on horses of course) set off behind the trail guide (she on horseback also) along a track that meandered through open paddocks, where the wallabies all stood up to watched us ride by and heavily vegetated areas, where numerous bird types flitted on the branches overhead. It has been quite a while since I have been in a saddle and it took the better part of half an hour for me to get limbered up (age? Or out of shape?) Good thing it was a two hour ride. The track opened up onto the beach at Horseshoe Bay and our horses faithfully followed the fellow in front, each stepping into the footprints made before him. My horse skipped a beat every once in a while as he tried to keep his toes from getting wet, silly horse, because he knows very well what is coming up… At a predetermined stopping spot, everybody dismounts, the saddles are stripped from the horses, we strip down to our "swimmers" and we all go for a swim - on horseback! A very cool experience. Kitaboy made groaning sounds for the whole water trip, pretending to be a motor boat, I'm thinking. Once we finished a great big loop in the water, we all tack up again and head back to the ranch. They allowed for trots and canters all along, which is unusual for tourist trail rides and I'm very happy for that. It was a very fun afternoon.


Friday, July 27, 2012

July 23, 2012 - we finally left Cairns and headed south. The cruising is a bit splashy, but we expected as much. Once the boats are all salty the oceans level out. We pull into the anchorage at Dunk Island and have a peaceful night with minimal swell - didn't even have to put out a flopper. The next morning sees us heading out at day break, bound for Otter Reef and our hopes are high for some good diving. The conditions are awesome, the sun is shinning, the winds are an easy 10 to 15 knots and the water is nearly flat. Unbelievable. We have to dodge our way through the bommies, which we can't see very well but our Angels guide us to a safe stop over a beautiful sandy spot with water so clear we can see the bottom. Imagine! There are turtles in the area, because I saw one while anchoring. Eric and Ann pick us up and the four of us head out to find the perfect dive spot. Well we searched and searched, but couldn't seem to get into any water deeper than 30 feet. Because we are at water level with the whaler, we can't see the color variations well enough to get clear of the reef and what we thought was forever for distance probably wasn't (just driving around in little circles and thinking we've gone a long way). We finally found a spot where there were a couple of deeper spots and we flipped over the side. What looked like it would be a really bad dive (initial looks indicated no coral, few fish) was actually - in my opinion - a very interesting dive. The visibility was the best we have had so far in Australia, making that a huge positive. The area is terribly fished out, only a couple of large sturgeons and one grouper hiding in the shadows and a medium amount of tiny fish. The corals and sponges, though sparse, are beautiful specimens, nicely formed, colorful and large. We found four gigantic, giant clams and came across a turtle feeding; it is still a thrill to see them in their own environment. The water is only 70 degrees, still comfortable in our 5 mil suits.


There isn't enough time to do a second dive - well there is if we pushed it, but Eric and Ann were frozen and we didn't really have any place spectacular to head too, so we cleaned up the gear and just enjoyed the rest of the afternoon in a lazy way. It was so nice and warm on the back of the boat and it seems like we haven't seen much sunshine for so long, that I couldn't resist laying out on the swim platform to absorb it, much like a seal sunning. Eric and Ann came over for Happiness Time during which we planned our next few days and savored some of our finer Australian wines.


The evening water was "flat", a phenomenon we haven't encountered here yet. Remember, we are anchored in the open ocean behind a bump in the ocean floor that doesn't even break the surface at low tide. Glen and I soaked it up by illuminating the crystal water behind us with the underwater boat lights. You would be so surprised at what creatures swim through the brightness. Maybe we are getting simple minded, because this was certainly a simple pleasure for us. When all the conditions are right, things just don't get any better and it is great. This is why we are here.