from THE SKIPPERS DESK
1st July 2012: And ther’re off! as they say in the classics.
Yes, we dropped the ropes today and headed north, if only to Redcliffe for a couple of days to say goodbye to our friends and family. On Thursday we will head up past Fraser Island avoiding the Wide Bay Bar and going around Fraser past Lady Elliot to Pancake Creek for a couple of weeks crabbing, fishing and getting our sea legs back. Once we reckon we are back in proper holiday mode and have shaken off the ‘marina blues’ we will head further up to the ‘Kepples’ for a week or two. Watch this space for the reports and first photos of the crabs and fish.
4th July 2012: Well we changed our plans due to the weather predictions. We decided to run over Wide Bay Bar and run up the inside. They are calling a strong wind warning for tonight so at least this way we will avoid the discomfort. Currently anchored up at Inskip point relaxing. Will watch the final State of Origin tonight and tomorrow we will head up to Hervey Bay for a few days befor continuing on to Pancake creek.
10th July 2012: We camped along the shoreline inside Fraser for a day or two and decided to head over to the Burnett (Bundaberg) to spend a day or so at the river entrance before continuing up to Pancake Creek. Once a few miles from shore we encountered 3 to 4 metre seas all the way. Not a pleasant trip but the ‘Gyro’ stabilisers help a bit by pulling the roll back about 50%. We were glad to reach the Burnett river.
Stuck our necks outside the river this morning with a plan to head north but turned back when confronted by 3 meter waves breaking across the entrance. We don’t need the rough seas, nothing to prove so we will stay another day inside. 15 to 20 knots predicted tomorrow with some N.E. so it may be a little better. No fish yet but haven’t really got fair dinkum with the efforts. Better prospects as we head further north.
12th July 2012: Was glad to leave the Burnett, what a hole, got nothing going for it in my opinion. We had a bad trip up to Pancake with 25 knots mostly on the beam with large swells from the North east.
14th July 2012: Well Pancake never disappoints. I caught a 10kg Golden Trevally today and a nice 3 kg Spangled Emperor. Will run the pots out tomorrow using the fish frames. 6 big muddies next day (3 Jennies unfortunately) but a great feed.
15th July 2012:Left Pancake for the Kepples group and having a predicted strong wind change for the next day we anchored up in a protected bay for the night. The weather man was so wrong..the wind hit us at 2.00 am and blew upwards to 30 knots for the rest of the night. I was on anchor watch all night as we were anchored near a reef.
16th July 2012: Tied up in Kepple Sands Marina (Yepoon) waiting out a strong wind. We will venture out to Great Kepple Island in a day of two for a few days R and R and some more fishing.
22nd July 2012: The wind never ceased all week so we spent the week in comfort inside Kepple Sands (Rosslyn Bay) Marina. Time to catch up with friends Peter and Yvonne who cruised with us in 2010. Had a very enjoyable game of golf at the Jap resort in Yepoon with Peter.
23rd July 2012: Finally left Rosslyn and headed out to Great Kepple Island for a day or two. We met another cruising couple, Alan and Veronica, their vessel “Storm”is an incredibley restored timber trawler which Alan must have spent a million hours of TLC bringing her up to her current state. The wind eased a couple of days later so we decided to head north again.
26th July 2012: Arrived at Island Head Creek yesterday afternoon and anchored a fair way up the creek to avoid the wind.
no fish, no crabs and no bait so we cruised off to the Percy Group of Isls. Stopped for a break at Middle Percy then early next morning the weather man was calling strong winds for the following day so we decided to get further down range towards the Whitsundays. WE headed into Scawfell Isl. for the night. Caught two beaut spotty mackeral after dinner off the swim platform using live bait caught with the throw net. These bait fish are attracted to the boat with our underwater “Aqualuma” lights and I simply throw the net over a school and bingo…live bait. We get most of our bait that way.
28th July 2012: Awoke at 1.00 am to find the boat pitching and rolling, the wind had hit us suddenly and it was gusting over 40 knots. I had to let out another 30 feet of chain and extend the flexible snub on the anchor by about 10 feet to iron out the shocks as the boat pulled and bucked with the 2 meter chop.That was the end of any sleep for the night again. The noise of the snub stretching and the wind whistleing thru the deck fittings made an eirie and frightening combination.
This supposed to be a safe anchorage but obviously not with 40 knots plus. We will take off first light tomorrow and get the hell out. I would rather run with strong winds than anchor up in them..it,s too hard on the boat and tackle.
30th July 2012: Cruised straight thru the Whitsundays, they have little appeal to us these days as it is full of tourists and charter boats. Anchored up in Woodwark bay 6 miles north of Airlie for the night. Today we headed around to Gloucester Straights to have a nice meal at the ‘Eco’ Resort restaurant on the beach. Took a shot of Liberty showing our ‘bike’ on the boat deck. This will provide us with transport when we are in Port.I don’t think I will get any trouble from the Bandidoes.
1st August 2012: Had a great meal at the Eco restaurant, Annie went oystering in the afternoon and I fished. Just as well she got oysters as I caught zilch.
7th August 2012: We are at one of our favourite places..Magnetic Isl. off Townsville. I offloaded the bike and we have been zipping all round the island until the bloody thing died on the biggest hill yesterday. If it wasn’t for Karen and Darren from their scooter hire company called “Road Runner Scooter Hire” who I rang, we would still be on the side of the road. They craned the bike onto their truck, took it back to their workshop and worked on it for two hours. The next day I discovered a broken oil feed pipe which was causing the carby to suck air, fixed it up and away she went again. We have decided to store the bike on the Island until we come back in December to spend the cyclone season at Magnetic Isl.
13th August 2012: From Horseshoe Bay to the Palm Islands in the last 3 days after catching up with Kerry and Eileen for a day on “Olympus” and now across to the Hinchinbrook Channel for a few days hopefully to catch a few Barramundies.
14th August 2012: The first thing we did once we arrived in Hinchinbrook was to set a couple of crab pots. The next morning we found a 2 metre bronze whaler shark had jammed himself in one of the pots and drowned himself overnight. No crabs, so we took a couple of slabs off the shark for bait and headed up Gayunda Creek (off the channel) to try our luck up there. It paid off spectacularly, we had 12 muddies by the next afternoon. They must love shark meat!!
This time we had no luck with the fishing. No Barra and no silver Grunter this trip, must have been the diurnal tides.
16th August 2012: Reluctantly we pull the anchor on Hinchinbrook and head up to Dunk Island. Now Dunk as we all no was devastated last year by cyclone Yasi. It ripped thru the resort tearing up every thing in it’s path. We were shocked at the damage on shore. (see photo log). We collected a bag of coconuts on the beach and picked some wild bananas that had been missed by previous visitors. The nuts yielded about one and a half litres of juice which we chilled and mixed with vodka and ice. Makes a really nice martini, shaken of course and not stirred. I can’t remember much about that day after that.
17th August 2012: We decided we needed to get some fresh fish for the freezer so we headed out to ‘Farquarson’ Reef which is about 20 miles off shore from Dunk. Found a good looking ‘Bommie’ and dropped the lines. Within an hour Annie had caught 3 nice Coral Trout and I had a couple of nice Cod. She outfished me this time. (see photo log)
The wind started to come up so we headed in to Mourilian Harbour for the night. The next morning we steamed the last 70 miles up to Cairns and booked into the marina for a couple of weeks to re stock, service the engines and generator. We will wait here for Mark and Jennifer to arrive from America, they will travel up to Lizard Island with us for 10 days.
2nd September 2012: Yesterday we had Allan and Julie Anderson from Hope Island visit us so we took them out to Arlington Reef and Green Isl. for the day. It was a bit windy going over and back but at Green Isl. it was delightful. We had a great day out.
9th September 2012: Our Yanky guests, Mark and Jennifer arrived yesterday so we slipped out of Cairns harbour at first light and steamed for Lizard Island via Cape Bedford overnight. As our guests only had a limited time to stay with us I had decided to leave in 25 knots of S.E winds to make up time and as a result we had a a bit of roll. I put the stabilizers on for the whole trip and we did the first 120 miles in reasonable comfort. The next morning however the wind shifted to the east and for the last 20 miles to Lizard we had 30 knots plus on the beam. Even the stabilizers couldn’t take out all the roll so it was a fun trip with some waves pushing us over to 30 degrees plus. I think our passengers had an adventure they could have done without.
11th September 2012: Here we are at the lovely Lizard Island once again. The guests at the resort pay around $2000 a night to enjoy the same sights as we get for nothing, makes us feel kinda special. The snorkelling here is world class with some of the prettiest coral and fish species in the world. Mark and Jennifer did all the walks and some snorkelling whilst Annie and I just vegged out and enjoyed the scenery for a few days. The fish around the boat at night with the underwater lights on is nothing short of spectactular. They are so thick you could almost walk on them. It is like having your very own aquarium at the back of the boat. Some big trevally up to 50 kg as well as sharks, bat fish, and queen fish in their hundreads. Unfortunately the whole area is a green zone so we weren’t able to catch any of them.
16th September 2012: Houston we have a problem….We woke up this morning to an electrical problem that initially looked like we had blown up our inverter. After investigation we discovered that the inverter had kicked out the reset button because the main fridge had blown a mother board. No main fridge meant that Annie went into total panic mode. The fridge was full of food and …hang on a minute! my beer will get hot too, I stated to panic now. I decided to put out a call on channel 16 for any electricians moored in Watsons Bay. (there were 15 boats anchored up at the time). Like a miracle this guy called Jerry from a yacht called “Thylacines” calls back and says “I’m an electrical engineer how can I help”.
Well help he did. Jerry pulled the fridge apart and rewired the circuit to run direct without the mother board. This meant we could still keep it running, except we now had to cycle it on and off manually at the switch ourselves. The guy is a genius. We ordered a new circuit board from Cairns and Jerry picked it up from Cooktown when he sailed back to restock his larder. We also have caught up with Jeff and Judy on “Andalea” who sailed a week befor us from Cairns. We hope to cruise a bit with these guys befor they turn and run back to Hervey Bay for Xmas.
We will be heading off to Flinders Island at Cape Melville next week for a couple of weeks fishing and crabbing. We will have a total communications blackout there except for our satellite phone.
23rd September 2012: We cruised to the ‘Flinders Group today (84 miles north of Lizard) to do some fishing. Well fish we did. Within an hour of anchoring behind Stanley Isl. I was into a 10 kg mackeral, followed by a 20 kg GT trevally then a 15 kg Queenfish (which I threw back). The monster fish kept coming on and off for the next two days including a wopping big ‘Morgan; Cod around 20 kilo. (see photo log for evidence of catch…warning!! if you get jealous easily, don’t look)We caught a few big Mac Tunas too but after trying one in a curry we decided to release all the other we caught. After a week “S.V.Thylacine” with Jerry and Susanne joined us at Flinders Isl. and they started to fish. As luck would have it the tides went ‘Diurnal’ (look up diurnal on Google for explaination) in other words the tides caused the fish to stop biting and we caught nothing much after that for the next week. The Flinders Isl. are a rugged group but have a certain charm about them. Because of the constant wind we could not explore all the areas we wanted and the fringing reef around every island makes it hard to go ashore in the dinghy.
7th October 2012: It looked like we had finally worn out our welcome and had better leave so we waited for a break in the wind to sail back to Lizard.For the first 2 days we endured 40 knots hiding behind Cape Melville befor making a run to Lizard on the 9th of October in about 10 knots and half a meter of sea…,a good run. Finally we have established communications again. All those people who I asked to hold my emails while away in Flinders Isl, thankyou for the 357 emails I downloaded today. I shall attempt to answere them sometime this year.
27th October 2012: All good things eventually have to end so it came to pass that we should leave Lizard Island and head
south again. The weather bureau predicted light winds for the next two days so we headed off to stop at Cape Bedford over night and continue to Cairns the next day, well the first part was ok. We woke at 2.00am to make passage to Cairns and had 15 knots of S.E. but decided to continue. By 8.00 am we had 30 knots on the nose with waves around 3 meters coming over the bow on occasions but we soldiered on hoping it wouldn’t get any worse. Unfortunately by lunch time with 40 miles to go we starting getting rain squalls that bought 40 knots plus with them and waves around 4 to 5 meters, we had enough. After taking solid green water over the decks for 30 minutes I turned for Port Douglas which was abeam of us about 15 mile in. We limped into there for the night.
29th October 2012: The wind had dropped to 15knots by morning so we slipped the ropes and headed down to Cairns. After a couple of days in Cairns restocking we decided to head south for the duration of the cyclone season so we set a course for Townsville via Dunk Isl, Hinchinbrook channel and the Palm Isl. Group . Not long after leaving Dunk we heard a grinding noise coming from the port gearbox. I shut it down and upon inspection found it to have no oil. I refilled it and did about 5 mile and noticed an oil slick coming from the exhaust so I shut the port side down completely and jammed the prop shaft so it couldn,t rotate the gear box in neutral. I figured theoul cooler had shit itself and allowed all the oil to leak out. We continued the rest of the cruise on one engine. With a couple of days stopover at Hinchinbrook we finally made Townsville Harbour around the 6th November and booked in for a month so we could do some maintenance and repairs including installing some new electronics, satellite TV, new inverters and some long range aerials for internet and AIS. The gear box ultimately had to come out and get stripped down. We were lucky as it was not damaged and the fact that I had locked the shaft up saved the box from any damage. We had to buy two new oil coolers for the transmissions as well. Whilst we were there I sold the scooter and bought a new slightly more powerful model to get around on.
7th December 2012: We exited Townsville and headed over to Rattle snake Island for a day or so to test everything on board then headed into Nelly Bay Marina on Magnetic Isl. to stay here over the Xmas and New Year. We won’t be going anywhere until February so I don’t think anything exciting will be happening until then. See you all in February.
26th December 2012: We had Susan and the grand kids up for a week before Xmas. They had a ball running around the Island and taking in all the sites. It sure is quiet now there’re gone.
We had a quiet Xmas, just the two of us. Annie did a pork roast for Dinner which was delicious, especially the crackle.
I have become a temporary member of the Country Golf Club and play each Wed and Friday now to keep my game up.
10th January 2013:Our friends Gail and Neil have gone home after spending 10 days with us on the island. They had a great time and left us with some memorable occasions. We have a break now from southern visitors until the long weekend when my kids come rumbling up for 3 days.
25th January 2103: Ex Tropical cyclone Oswald hit us yesterday but we were very lucky being situated in the marina here on the island as we only got winds to around 60 knots and 210 mm of rain. We suffered no damage at all and as far as I know no one else did here either, although the north side of the island had some devastation on it’s beach.
29th January 2013: Well the kids came and went after exploring every nook and cranny on the Island. That includes every pub and bar in those establishments as well. We had a great time riding scooters all over doing a pub crawl and swimming in each area we visited. It has been extremely hot up here this week, around the 37deg and 75 – 80 % humidity. I am sure they enjoyed their stay.
2nd February 2013: The long range forecasters up here say the BIG one is coming in about a month so we have decided to stay here at Magnetic until the 2nd week in March befor venturing further north again. When we do leave we plan on following the ribbon reefs up to Cairns and fishing all the holes on the way. We will take about a week to complete that trip. The Barramundi season opened here on the 1st so we can now try and catch the two big buggers that swim around the marina of a night. When I put my underwater lights on at night the small bait fish come in followed by these huge Barra so it’s game on now. Our neighbour caught a nice big Mangrove Jack here last month on a piece of fat he cut off his steak.
4th February 2013: Annie hooked the Barra, fought it hard but as it came to the boat it slipped the hook. We are still trying.
5th February 2013: We have been working hard for the last 3 days putting up the solar panels. We have installed 4 x 130 watt German “SolarWorld” panels which when on anchor will cut our generator times back by a third. This will save around $2000 P.A.
10th February 2013: I Joined the Magnetic Island Country Club as a temp. member last month and now enjoy two games of golf a week. I am not playing any better for it but the exercise sure is welcome. I made some great friends while I was there and hope to play a few more games on my return.
25th February 2013: The solar panels are working great. I am getting an extra 30 amp per hour between 9.00am and 3.00pm. This will cut our genny time down by 2 hours a day saving us about $2000 p.a. Same old same old here every day at the moment. I am starting to get ‘Marina fever’ and need to feel the salt air in my face and the gentle roll of the sea as we cruise along. We are just waiting for a weather window and will head off.
March 7th 2103: Well, another bloody cyclone has appeared on the screen. This one is called Tim and looks a bit scary as it heads south west from the Coral Sea. They say it may miss us so we are cautiously watching it every day.
It looks like it is getting stronger and is heading in to the coast so we could be in for a beating.
March 17th 2013: We are making an executive decision today to pack up the bike, tie down the deck gear and head north to avoid ‘Tim”. The weather gurus say is heading back onto the coast somewhere near Townsville. I have learned over the years to only believe about half what the Australian Weather bureau predicts as a lot of what they come up with is just that….a prediction based on computer models etc, however there is nothing like looking out the bloody window every now and again and having a guess at what is going on. I did just that and we decided to make a run for it. We will steam all day and get as far up the coast as we can on our way to Cairns. I was right, as the trip up was in glass conditions with the nasty stuff about 24 hours behind us. We arrived safe at Yorkeys Knob (north of Cairns) and are tied up at the boat club. We have caught up with Jerry and Susanne from S.V. Thylacines who will be cruising with us when we head north in two weeks. “Tim” finally crossed the coast near Innisfail the next day so we were lucky we left when we did.
March28th 2013: Life at Yorkeys Knob is pretty boring being trapped again at a marina whilst we restock and do minor repairs, however we see a weather window around next Sunday so we will head up to Lizard Isl. I am looking forward to getting the fishing gear out again and pulling in some great feeds.We may even try crocodile this trip if one of them is unlucky.
April 8th 2013: A weather window appears on the horizon and we get at least 3 days of light winds so we pay the bill at Yorkeys and cruise off to Lizard island. This is officially our first leg in the journey north. We stayed at Lizard for 4 days and caught up with some old friends who cruise all year ‘round and once S.V.Thylacines caught up with us we decided to head up to the Flinders group and do a little fishing befor moving further north.
April 15th 2013: These wonderful fertile waters this far north have an abundance of every variety of fish you could wish for. We felt like some fresh fish for dinner so I threw a 5 inch spoon over the side and within minutes had a 22 kilo wahoo/Spanish makeral fighting for his life. I managed to retrieve him with great difficulty as he was a lot bigger than we expected and they have a massive mouth full of razor sharp teeth which they try and use at every opportunity. He dressed up at approx. 15 kilo of pure fish fillet, enough fresh fish for the next week or two. I put the lure away as we didn’t need any more fish.
April 17th 2013: We (and Thylacines) moved on while we had good weather to Morris Island, a beautiful tropical Island with one tall coconut palm which one can see from miles away. Like most of our overnight stopovers we launch the dinghy to explore the beach and to give Ralf a run. They say this island has a resident croc but we saw no eveidence this time. We did see lots of flotsom which includes net floats from all over the world and thousands of plastic bottles of every size and colour. This seems to be the common problem these days with plastic bottles, with thousand ending up in our oceans and floating around the world. None of them seem to have any “message” in them but the over welming message should be to the people responsible for their journey is to be more responsible and put them in the rubbish.
April 18th 2013: The next leg was up to Portland Roads. This is a small remote village which is a hangover from WW2
When the ships that fought the Coral Sea battle were resupplied from here. The US Navy had turned the village into a huge military base and loading jetty. All that remains today is some rusty poles where the jetty used to stand and a few houses and a small store. We stayed overnight and moved on the next day.
April 20th 2013: The last time we were cruising up this way we wanted to go off the beaten track a little and visit the Forbes group of Islands but bad weather prevented us. This time we decided to go see them. They are three beautiful small Islands (12.17.16 S – 143.24.36 E) and we stayed a couple of days. The water is so clear one can see the giant clams on the surrounding reefs in 30 feet of water as clear as glass. We had drinks on the beautiful white beach each afternoon watching the sun go down over the barrier reef. I caught hundreds of small herring for bait with my cast net as we walked along the beach in the early morning.
April 22nd 2013: The weather looked like it was going to deterioate so we decided to shorten our stay and head north to beat the impending strong winds. We cruised up to Margaret Bay with Thylacines (Jerry and Susanne) and tucked in behind the point overnight. The next morning the wind was increasing so we took off for the top. (Cape York). We motored all day in what turned out to be rough weather. It was a constant 25 knots and the seas were around 2.5 to 3 meters. Fortunately it was mostly behind us
So we were able to make good time. We anchored in the Escape River that night and passed over the very rough bar next morning into wild seas and 30 knots.
April 24th 2013: We had 20 mile to go to the top of Australia and we were determined to do it today.
After a very fast trip avaraging 10 knots (we had a 3 to 4 knot current pushing us to the top) we rounded Cape York and the wind was mostly shielded now by the land mass. We decided to finish the leg and continue on to Seisia which was another 25 miles around on the inside of the Cape York. Seisia is a small northern port where the top end is serviced by small ships who supply everything from building material to food. We will stay here for a week and relax. We have a few small jobs to carry out as well. Besides, a nasy tropical cyclone which they have just named ‘Zane’ is about 600 miles out in the Coral Sea and heading towards Queensland.
April 25th 2013: It was here we bumped into a yacht called “Starship”. We had seen her at Lizard and again at the Flinders Group but hadn’t introduced ourselves so we finally met the owners, Vicky and Andy Bray.They had been around the world and now were circumnavigating Oz. We also met a lone sailor Peter, on “Sea Whiskers” who is also headed for Darwin so he decided to tag along as well. We were getting quite a little fleet together by now so the comradery was very pleasant. Thylacines has not turned up yet so we can only assume they are ok. We left them at Margaret Bay as they felt the weather was too rough for them to continue on that day.Had they known that a cyclone was on the way I feel they may have changed their mind.
April 28th 2013: ‘Zane” has intensified and is reported to be heading for landfall about 100 miles from us. We can expect to gat gale force winds and lottsa rain. The general consenses in the harbour is one of calm as the locals say a cyclone hasn’t hit Seisia for 100 years. I am not so confident and we start to batten everthing down and hope and wait.
April 30th 2013: We wake expecting gale force winds and devastation but instead we have 20 knots and no rain. During the night ‘Zane’ collapsed into a tropical low about 60 miles from us and fizzeld out…thank God.
May 1st 2013: Thylacines turns up ok, they had been hiding in the Escape River. An old friend in Seisia, Greg Bethune who runs a local fishing charter boat returns from a trip so we have him over for dinner next night to catch up and get some local river knowledge. We have decided to enter some of the rivers whilst travelling down to Weipa and Greg is the expert as he fishes them all year ‘round. He gives me a heap of GPS co-ords so we can enter with safety. Apart from the fishing club and the supermarket we don’t really go antwhere in Seisia as we have seen it all befor. Starship decides to cruise with us and Thylacines for a while as we are all headed for Darwin, so we decide to take off for Weipa via the Doughboy and Jacson Rivers the next day.
May 3nd 2013:In blustery conditions we leave Seisia and head down to Vilya Point some 35 miles away and anchor just off the beach for the night. We need to get a high tide the next day to enter the Doughboy River. Once in the river we launch the tender and start exploring. The first 10 minutes we see 2 crocodiles who scurry back into the water as we got closer, and Peter off Sea Whiskers approached one little 4 meter specimen to within 20 meters to capture a great photo. (See Photo log). After scaring all the crocs away we settled down to some serious fishing. The river is teaming with fish but as luck would have it the moon phase was out and they weren’t on the bite. We did however get some mackeral and Pete caught lottsa bream.
May7th 2013: Once Thylacines turned up we all decided to head down to the Jackson River. They said the Barra were on the chew. We enetered the Jackson an hour or so later and set up an anchorage. After chasing around the river for three days we decided to head off to Weipa where we would top off our diesel, freshen up our fruit and veggies and use this spot to launch ourselves across the Gulf of Carpentaria.
May 10th 2013:ce we arrived in Weipa (Evans Landing) we were confronted with a huge Chinese tanker parked on the only fuel wharf in town. We were told we couldn’t get fuel until next week so we had no choice but to sit on anchor for 7 days. Apart from that the local fuel Company…’Oz Fuel’ then said they had no body ‘qualified’ to operate the pumps until the following week. They are a bloody fuel company and don’t have anybody qualified…give me a break. I kicked up a storm and rang the shell Company that supplies them and found a guy that was qualified who said he would help when the tanker left. The advice here for anybody travelling thru Weipa to Darwin…don’t bother. I have dubbed the bloody hole “Grim Weipa” and will never set foot in the place again.
May 16th 2013: The Gulf awaits us. We all head off at different times to cross the Gulf. Pete on Cats Whiskers left tthree days befor, Thylacines left the day befor, and Starship left the evening befor. We were the last to head west. The first 100 miles weren’t too bad. The weather predictions were for 10 to 15 knots increasing to 20 with waves to 1.5 to 2 meters tops.This was true to predictions until the next day when from out of knowhere comes this swell with waves to 4 meters. It wasn’t so much the size as the direction. They were on our port beam and rolled us thru 30 degrees on some waves. We were also hit with rain squalls and wind up to 30 on occasions. I decided to start the generator to power up the Gyro stabiliser system which saved the day. It reduced the roll to 15 degrees and slowed down the side pitching as well. 42 hours later we glided into Gove harbour at 2.00 am in the morning of the second day, and I think I was asleep befor the anchor hit the bottom. Not a very nice trip but they say the gulf can be unpredictable at best. The boat handled the conditions beautifully as expected as did the crew!.
May 21st 2013:After a good rest we decide to put ‘Liberty’ up on the creening rack at Gove Yacht club(photo log) to clean her sides and check the anodes and props. After a low tide we were able to clean the waterline, underwater lights, check the props and rudders and anodes. I was surprised to find after 18 months we still had clean props and rudders, the prop speed was still mostly there doing it’s job, and the anodes were only about half gone so I determind that she can wait till we slip her at Xmas. We enjoyed our stay at Gove, meeting some local characters and having a beer with them. Everyone there just wants to help, they are very friendly people.
May 23rd2013: We all decide (except Starship) to beat a weather change and head off to the Wessel Islands for a week. Starship will sail to Darwin along the mostly unchatred coast via Elchro Island and meet up with us probably at Cape Don.
We all pulled into a little beach about 15 miles from the Wessels overnight so we could take on the “Hole in the Wall” which is a 2 mile cutting between two islands in the Wessels. One has to get an ebbing tide to get thru from the east to west as the current can be upwards to 10 knots. We arrived about two hours befor low tide and had an exilerating trip thru at 13.5 knots. I had no idea how pretty the area was as we screamed thru the cutting.
When we leave the Wessels (we need 2 days good weather) we will do the 175 miles in one day/night run across to the Goulburn Island. Cats Whiskers will follow us but Thylacines will head down the Wessels and do the coast run as well. We may not see them again until Darwin. We are booked into Cullen Bay Marina first week in June for a month. My next report will be from there.
May 25th 2013. The cruise across the ‘Arafura’ was reasonable considering the 220 miles is situated in the windiest area of the far north. We had 15 to 20 knots behind us so we had a fast trip to Malay Bay. We worked our way towards Darwin over the next 3 days down from Cape Don. The Van Diemen Gulf showed us that it wasn,t going to let us pass without paying our respects so she threw 30 knots at us on the nose and made me tack the whole way. The 75 miles become 105 thru out the day. We made Cape Hotham by sunset with only 30 miles to go to Darwin.
May 28th 2013. We anchored in Fanny Bay until mid morning when I could arrange with the Cullen Bay lockmaster to let us thru the lock to a berth.
For the next 3 weeks we will do a mini refit and a few repairs as well as a full service on both engines and the genny.
I have decided to install a second auto pilot, a new Garmin state of the art to back up “George” who is now 7 years old and starting to make some awful noises. The pilot is the hardest working electronic on any boat and needs a backup on long trips. The hydraulic steering is leaking as well so will have to be repaired.
July 3rd 2013. We head off from Darwin to the Kimberley for a nightv run. We travel a lot at night as the wind usually drops off more and the conditions are cooler. WE are fully equipped to travel at night with all the necessary instruments and charts. We arrived at the Berkley River around 2.00 am the next day. It is hard to describe the Kimberley in a few words. The beauty and splendour of the landscapes right thru out the area is unique to Australia. We spent a week 12 miles up the Berkley River and did some auwsome hikes up the cliffs to see the spectacles of the waterfalls and the fresh water rock pooles. The fishing is to die for, almost anyone can catch fish in these parts they are so abundent.
WE then headed down stream waited for a weather window and a full tide and crossed the bar heading for the King George river some 40 miles down the coast. This awsome river is also barred and we had to pick our tide to enter the river. The cruise up the King George was equally spectacular with the 250 ft.high cliffs and at the end the famous twin falls. Being July meant that the water was hardly running now as the wet season was months back but they were still great to see up close. We took on some more great climbing and hiking and got to the top of the falls to take photos.
July18th 2013.We left the river and set a course for Broome Bay where we wanted to spend a week exploring the many sites and islands that offered aboriginal art and great fishing. We anchored in Mission Bay for a few days to avaoid 30 knots and while in there I caught the biggest Spanish Mackeral I have ever caught. He went 22 kilos and was almost 1.25 meters long. Annie caught a nice Big Mouth Nanniguy of the swim platform one night as well.
We run around in the dinghy most days exploring bays and beaches and finally the time to head back was upon us. We had a weather window of 3 days coming up and decided to use that to beat the notorious Bonaparte gulf who’s reputation for sinking boats with huge waves is legendary. We left the Kimberley on the Saturday morning and cruised straight for 40 hours to Darwin doing the 330 miles in one hit. The weather was fantastic and the boat performed beautifully.
August 2nd 2013. We are currently in Cullen Bay again for 2 weeks doing a few maintenance jobs like changing out both main engine impellers and general repairs etc befor the big trip back to the Gold Coast. The 2600 miles will take us till early December to do as we cruise slowly back across the top end and down the Queensland coast. We still have the Arafura sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria to do so the trip will not be without excitement.
August 14th 2013. Anyone that travells west across the top will tell you that the return trip from west to east which is against the trade winds will be a challenge. A challenge to get the weather right so the trip doesn’t become a nightmare. We were not looking forward to the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria legs but unless we could beam ourselves over we had to do it. The morning came with a predicted 4 day window of good winds so we exited the lock at Cullen Bay marina and headed out from Darwin to the Arafura. My expectationd were high for a good trip and by the time we had reached Cape Don ..some 100 miles from Darwin I made the decision to not stop over for a night but instead to round Croker Isl. And ‘go for it’ which meant instead of doing 40 to 50 miles a day across Arnum lands coast with stop overs every evening and making it a 5 day run it will become a 2day 2 night run and knock the 300 miles off in one go. This way if the weather closed in we should be over befor it starts.
August 18th 2013. Well we are anchored in Guruilya Bay in the Wessels Isl. With the Arafura Sea behind us. We had a dream run with only about 12 hours of rough passage where the winds sprung up overnioght to about 25 knots for a while. The next day we headed off to the “Hole in the Wall” enroute to Gove. The Hole in the Wall is a 2 mile channel that nature had cut into solid rock between two islands. It is only about 30 to 40 meters wide and the currents reach 15 knots during the mid tides. The trip thru is qyuite exilerating and somewhat dangerous if one isn,t on the ball. The channel is full of eddies, whirlpools and overfalls and can knock the boat completely off course in a second and have it heading towards the wall at 15 knots. This is exactly what happened this time. We got into a whirlpool and befor I could blink the boat had turned around 90 degrees and was headed for the rocks. Only full throttles and a full opposite lock saved the day being a bad one. It is impossible to avoid the whirlpools but one can only be carefull as the boat progresses along the channel.
We arrived in Gove later that day for a well earned rest.
August 22nd 2013. Weather windows this time of year are few and far between what with the trade winds blowing consistently 26 days out of every 30, I could see another 3 or 4 days of moderate winds and slight seas shaping up (my predictions based on experience by now) We decided to put the Gulf on the line and put it behind us. We hauled anchor and set the auto pilot on 80 degrees and the throttles for 7.5 knots and set off for the Cape York Peninsula, or Doughboy Creek to be precise. I shouldn’t have to touch the pilot or throttles for another 360 miles. We had a dream run across the Gulf with only the last 60 miles when the sea conditions went from glass to 3 meters plus for no apparent reason. The winds came at around 25’s but gradually the weather improved and by the time we had arrived at the river the sea was calm. We had to anchor outside the Doughboy River for 4 hors to wait for the tide to allow us entry. The reason we went for the Doughboy instead of Seisia was because a friend of ours, Greg Bethune who runs a fishing charter business, was in the river working and we decided to surprise him. We rested for a couple of days in the river befor heading up the 50 miles to Seisia. We caught some nice fish while we were in the Doughboy for the 3 days.
August 27th 2013: It was time to head up to Seisia (Cape York) to prepare for the trip down the east coast of Queensland. We anchored off Seisia and had to wait for 30 knot s.e winds to abate. It took 10 days before we had a weather window.
Meanwhile we met some nice yachties in the bay and played 500 for a few days and had the odd drink. We started flicking some lures at night in the lights and got busted up continuously with some big Tarpin around 4 kilo plus. They are great fish to catch but shit to eat so we just threw them back each time.
September 8th 2013: Finally we get the weather we need to go around the top to the Escape River for the run down. The next day we headed down to Cape Grenfell in 20 knots on the quarter beam, not all that comfy but we managed 7 knots.
September 14th 2013: After 400 miles and 6 days of cruising we pulled into Lizard Island for a well earned rest. The usual crowd were there including Ruth and Peter on ‘Coral Sea’ so we had a very pleasant 2 weeks of Sundowners, snorkelling, fishing and swimming and sadly eventually we had to pull the pick and head south to restock and refuel. I hadn’t put any fuel in the boat since Gove in Northern Territory. We headed out and cruised down to Yorkey’s Knob boat club to stay a few days and pick up our friend Shaun from the Gold Coast who will do the next leg to Townsville with us via some reef fishing.
October 2nd 2013: We restocked and fueled and with Shaun on board we headed out to do some fishing. First night was at Fitzroy Isl. Then the next day we headed down to High Isl. To catch a few Coral Trout but that proved no good as the tide was wrong. We headed for Mourilian Harbour for the night and Shaun caught a beautiful Striped Grunter around 3 Kg, then out to Farquarson Reef the next day to a little spot we know. Annie caught the best fish of the day,3 nice size Coral Trout, but Shaun did ok considering he was new to reef fishing. We then headed into the Hinchinbrook Channel for the night hoping to clean up on Bara but again all we got were giant catfish around 10 kilo.
October 6th 2013: We are just leaving Magnetic Island as I write this on our way down to the Whitsundays to see a few friends and spend a week or so relaxing around the many islands. I will pick this report up in a week.
October 10th 2013: We headed for Bowen after moseing along the coast for a couple of days and stayed in the Marina for two days to catch up with Kerry and Eileen. We also run into Gary and Katherine Topp on “Grand Seas” who were staying in the marina.
October 13th 2013: After socializing for a couple of days we decided to head over to the eco resort at Gloucester straights to see Ray and Sue on “Devil’s Lair”. They were now living in the Whits. on their cruiser so we decided to share lunch at the resort and take the opportunity to catch up. After a lovely weekend we headed down the coast via Brampton Isl., Scawfel and then on to Curlew Isl. We then continued on via Marble Isle to Island Head where we anchored for a cople of days to wait out a southerly blow.
October20th 2013: Once the wind dropped we headed down to The Kepples where we met up with Peter on his new Clipper 46 cruiser. We had a lovely break here and started looking at the last380 miles to home and how we would do it.
October 25th 2013: After studying the weather patterns for the next week it was decided that the weather would turn bad within 5 days and stay bad for a week so we made the decision to go for it and do the entire trip in one go. We got used to long legs throughout this trip so two more days and two more nights would see us within reach of the Gold Coast.
October 27th 2013: We almost got away with it. The wind came up prematurely as we crossed the bar at Fraser Isl. And promised a miserable beam on sea all the way to Redcliffe, some 100 miles away. I had no choice but to head out to sea about 45 miles to tack against the beam sea. I set the boat up at 45 deg. to the swell for some degree of comfort and safety as the swells were rising to over 3 meters with the wind up around 30 knots. It was just on dark as we cruised past Double Island point and headed out to sea. Every now and again the boat would get knocked off course with the collision of a rogue wave that I couldn’t see because there was no moon but we were committed now so we had to keep going. After about 6 hours cruising I turned for land and set up the boat at 45 deg. on the port quarter and run with the swell for another 5 hours. I now had covered around 80 miles but only advanced about 50 down the coast. I then repeated the tack to sea for another 20 miles and then turned again to run with it. By this time I had entered the slightly calmer waters off Caloundra so I was able to head parallel with Bribie Isl. now for the last 15 miles to Redcliffe. If I hadn’t tacked all the way I am sure we would have destroyed the boat. Large displacement cruisers like ours do not like a beam on sea but can get away with them if the right tactics are used.
November 2nd 2013: After seeing the kids at Redcliffe for a day or two we slowly made our way home to Hope Island Marina.
We had travelled over 7000 nautical miles, used over 14000 litres of diesel and averaged around 8 knots for the trip. We travelled across 3 states and met some nice boaties on the way. Liberty performed faultlessly(a small gearbox problem only)and took us thru some of the prettiest country in the world. The Kimberley was spectactular and the journey was exciting.
Our next adventure will commence around October this year when we head south to Tasmania and all its ports.