Mandolin Wind under Spinnaker  

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Martin & Sue

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Rossyln Bay to Airlie Beach

 

Having cruised the area from Yeppoon to Airlie Beach a few times before, we decided to set a direct course to Airlie Beach. On imparting this itinerary to the coastguard, a note of surprise entered his voice and he warned us that 2-3 metre swells were expected overnight and a strong wind warning due to a large low over NZ. We agreed to leave our decision until Round Head Creek – the last safe anchorage before night fall.

As it panned out, we had a fairly constant 15-20 knots ( gusting 25 ) from behind with a 1-2 metre swell for the entire trip – and we were able to sail wing on wing most of the trip. We had decided on 3 hourly watches – changing on the half hour as I had read somewhere that psychologically, this tends to make the time go more quickly. This rotation seemed to work well. It was a moonlit night and the temperature was mild due to cloud cover so the watches were very pleasant. My watch from 2.30 – 5.30 am went very quickly as we were approaching Mackay which always has many anchored ships waiting to be loaded. The AIS and the radar again proved very valuable as I made sure I could pass each one with at least 1 nm to spare.

 

The only mishap for the entire trip occurred during my 8.30 – 11.30am watch. Suddenly the jib sheet – which we had fed through a block attached to a cleat on the side deck (enabling us to sail wing on wing without a pole – don’t you love catamarans!) – came free of the winch. Typically this coincided with an increase in the wind to 25knots and chaos ensued – with me frantically yelling to Martin who was asleep below whilst trying to make my way forward to try and grab the end of the sheet. It was too little too late. By the time Martin emerged the Heady had well and truly back wrapped itself around the furler in a nice “wine glass” – and not just once but several times. Efforts to unwrap proved fruitless, even when we pointed into the wind. We had just decided to head for the shelter of Goldsmith Island when the wind eased slightly and we were able to give an almighty heave just at the right moment to correct it. Well, that got the adrenaline rushing – especially for Martin disturbed from his sleep!

 

With 1-2 knots of current behind us we made good time to Airlie Beach, and we were anchored off Coral Seas Resort in Pioneer Bay by 5pm. After 35 hours of non-stop sailing we were ready for an early night but first we had to run the engines. It seemed a shame, after such a great downwind sail that we needed to run the engines to top up on our battery levels. However, we were learning that solar panels are wonderful if you can get sun on them – but cloudy days accompanied by our sailing angle (which tended to shade the panels with the mainsail when it did come out) meant that they had had little opportunity to provide power. After discussions with other yachties, we had resigned ourselves to the fact that we would need to bite the bullet and purchase a small petrol generator. Of course, our preferred option would have been to get a diesel type but given that these cost around $14,000, the Honda 2000w petrol version was the best option. I fell asleep that night thinking nightmarish thoughts of how long and expensive our shopping list had grown. Tomorrow was going to be a very long, busy day!

 

Next morning we dinghied over to the marina and tied up in one of the berths allocated to Queensland Yacht Charters (QYC). As we were stepping out of the dinghy, a QYC staffer (hereafter called Mr. Grumpy) called out, ‘You don’t think you are going to leave that there do you?’ Our reply of ‘It’s OK, we’re are friends of Adrian and Suzette (the owners) appeased him slightly although he still did not look happy. ‘Oh, I thought you were just grotty yachties!’ As it turned out, the ‘Nyree Rose’ (a 10.1 metre motor cat) was berthed nearby and we explained that we were the original owners before selling it to QYC and that it was named after our daughter. Not wanting us to leave without having the final work, Mr. Grumpy quipped, ‘Well, what I want to know is why you didn’t spell it the traditional way!’
Adrian and Suzette were surprised to see us but very welcoming, offering to let us use their car to pick up supplies – and even organizing with the marina office to let us moor up in the QYC area for a few nights.

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the 'Nyree Rose' - our previous boat we had on charter and later sold to QYC

 

The little jeep was rather ‘agricultural’ (lucky for the floor mat covering the hole on the drivers side) and a bit challenging to drive in the gear crash department. After a few miles we easily appreciated Suzette’s comment of ‘I don’t think it will make it into Proserpine if that is the only place you can find a generator!’

 

 

Our first stop was Cannonvale and the Westpac Bank. We had decided to rationalize all our bank accounts so wanted to close a few accounts – especially business accounts. We also wanted to apply for a second credit card as a backup in case our visa was stolen and had to be cancelled. Our arrival at the front of the queue coincided with the entry of an airconditioning mechanic who called out that he was just going up on the roof. The next minute one of those ‘it could only happen in Queensland’ events occurred. The power suddenly went out taking the lights and the computers with it. ‘Don’t you have an emergency power supply?’ asked Martin. The blank looks prompted a further comment of ‘The airconditioning mechanic is probably fried up on the roof!’ to which the manager emerged with a torch and went to investigate. After a long wait it was obvious that the outage was going to be for quite a long duration so we left our requirements for the account closures with the teller to work on at her leisure. Before we left we were talked through the application form for the extra credit card. Answers of ‘No fixed address’ and ‘no employment’ brought home the fact that we really were nomads now. Understandably Westpac were not that keen on giving a credit card to such undesirable types! However, the girl assisting us was quite helpful and promised to see what she could do.

 

 

 

Next stop, Whitsunday Shopping Centre where we had a list of things to buy at Big W, including a new jerry can to hold the petrol for the ‘yet to be purchased’ generator. Interestingly, Adrian advised us to purchase premium unleaded as he found that using this instead of standard unleaded greatly reduced the maintenance on the outboard engines – and would be good for the generator as well.
 Investigations at the Honda agent revealed that very few of the 2000w generators were available anywhere because of the strong demand caused by the Victorian Black Saturday Bushfires. Townsville had 4 in stock but would not discount from the list price of $2,400. Fortunately Martin remembered a website advertising the same model so a quick phone call later he had organized for one to be delivered to QYC from Brisbane for under $2,000.

 

 

Back at the bank and we finalized all our account closures. Not surprisingly the auto credit decision engine had questioned my credit card application – so we had to wait a few more hours to hear that approval had gone through.
Our dinghy was fairly well loaded with groceries and our other purchases as we made our way back to the boat. We were grateful that we had decided not to changeover our 10 person dinghy for a smaller version – something we were tempted to do until a friend pointed out that we would need the extra room to ferry jerry cans of diesel in remote locations.

The next day we upped anchor and moved into the marina – courtesy of QYC. As Adrian helped us tie up he informed us that our generator had already arrived from Brisbane. Martin spent most of the day doing repairs – including a service on the outboard. A trip to the auto-electrician found that the faulty starter motor had a seized solenoid and fortunately it only cost $20 to fix.

Mr. Grumpy was very annoyed that the grotty yachties had returned and were taking up even more space in the QYC area. ‘You need to be out early – we have lots of boats coming in,’ he grumbled bad temperedly. ‘No Probs,’ replied Martin with a wink in my direction.

Adrian and Suzette came aboard that night for dinner. Discussions turned to Tasmania where they had purchased a block of land on Brunei Island with the view to spending 6 months a year there during the Queensland summer. Suzette did not sound that keen to relocate to chilly Tassie – especially after we pointed out that when cruising there on ‘Ingenue’ in January it was sleeting and there was snow on the mountains!

We were up early the next morning getting ready to vacate (not wanting to upset Mr. Grumpy any further). I winched Martin up the mast to change the anchor and tri-light into the new LED globes – a task made easier since the addition of the mast steps to the first spreaders. Adrian popped by and assured us there was no need to rush off and that we could even stay another night if it suited us

 

 

Thankful for the extra time, we headed off to the fishing shop to find a solution to catching fish from the back of a fast sailing yacht. We decided on a large hand reel that had mostly strong twine, then a wire trace and a silver spoon. Not exactly what we were looking for but the shop owner assured us that most yachties use a similar solution. On hearing that we were heading to the back blocks of Indonesia, the owner disappeared and returned with a box of fishing gear to give to the locals during our travels. On inspection later we counted 50 packets of 5 fish hooks plus several rolls of fishing line. We were very grateful as we already had a lot of supplies to give to the children (ie books, pens etc) but were short of giveaways for the adults. The incidents helped to offset our generally cynical perception regarding the selfishness of Western Society. What a champion.

 

Since it was still early afternoon and the weather was perfect we set sail for Cape Gloucester, a few hours sail north. Bingo – 5 minutes after we put the new line out we scored a nice spotted mackerel !  Our respect for the owner of the fishing shop increased even further as we planned how we would cook our catch.

 

Having left Airlie Beach behind us it was now time to slow the pace down. This was all new territory to us and in some ways this felt like the real start of our trip. The weather was perfect, the boat was performing superbly and we had fish for dinner – what more could we ask for? Darwin here we come !