Friday, July 31, 2015

Bundaberg to Lady Musgrave

We left Bundaberg at around 00:30 on the morning of the 26th of July and motored north towards Lady Musgrave. We were at the tail end of a good weather window so there was a light north westerly breeze blowing and calm seas. 

The new sails and feathering propellers are great in light winds. We had to add motor power to keep up our boat speed, but we only ticked the engines over at low revs so we hardly used any fuel. Apart from a few fishing boats hunting along the edge of the marine exclusion zones we had the ocean to ourselves - no large ships or other yachts.

Sam took watch at around 0:600 with about ten miles to go to Lady Musgrave. Before I headed down to catch some rest I reeled out our fishing line on the off chance that something would take a nibble as the sun slowly rose in the east.

We took the long-way around the reef system to avoid the marine park and snuck in close to the southern edge to see if we could lure any fish out of the shallows. There were some small breaking waves on the reef flat, but we maintained a safe distance and hoped for the best. Unfortunately we lucked out despite Sam's fish dancing and we did not catch anything before we entered the lagoon.

Sam thinks she saw a whale near the northeast tip of the reef, but the rest of the crew didn't see anything. Sam’s next sighting - accompanied by the call "dolphins at the bow” - was accurate. We all rushed forward to watch a pod of dolphins playing off the bows of Lucey Blue. Eric was enthralled by the strange friendly fish that snorted and leaped out of the water and a lot of fun was had by all.

We entered Lady Musgrave lagoon about an hour before dead low tide and anchored near the island at the west end. 

What a beautiful place! Sure there was a southerly change coming and we would be locked down for a few days by 25 to 30 knot winds, but today the sun was out, the water was warm and we had reef to explore… 

Bundaberg - The best little big town in Queensland.

Bundaberg is such a welcoming town with so many great features for yachts - amazing fresh produce, plenty of fresh fish and super friendly people - that we could have easily spent several weeks. 

Eric loved the subtropical feel of the town and was forever running around offering ladies flowers at the marina. 

Emily and Ryan took up fishing with some expert guidance from Peter aboard Acropora and other yachties. They had some success and are likely now hooked on the sport, but we will let them tell their own story in their own words to let you decide for yourself!

We all enjoyed catching up with family and friends - we even managed to have dinner with Mel and Angus from Roar Ege which was fantastic.

One of the many highlights is Lushus Cakes on the main street of town. They have been in business since at least the early 1980s and whenever we are in town we make sure to buy one (maybe two… ok you got me maybe a few more) Peach Blossom cakes. The shop has been flashed up with a new coat of paint but the cake remains as delicious as always.

We zipped to and from town in a borrowed car and apart from a few cane trains there was never any traffic or delay. 

If we could stay forever we probably would, but the call of the reef was strong and the crew of Lucey Blue was keen to see Lady Musgrave again…

Brisbane to Bundaberg - Nearly nonstop!

We left Brisbane on the 15th of July and motored down the Brisbane river against the last of the incoming tide.

On the way down we passed another Lagoon 42 TPI - Connect Four, and a range of spectacular properties before we made it to the industrial area of Port Brisbane. The change in scenery along the banks of the river is dramatic and its great to see ships, tug boats, factories and container loading facilities near the mouth of the river. Sydney has lost a lot of this character with most of the city's waterfront now converted to luxury residences.

There was no wind at all when we arrived at Moreton Bay, but ever hopeful we pulled up our new mainsail and set off north via the small boat channel south of Bribe Island. Ryan used the traditional method to pull up the mainsail while Nick used his new electric winch handle - a WinchRite from Sailology- to save energy for more important tasks!

The kids entertained themselves in the cockpit and we were all treated to a spectacular sunset on the way  to Double Island Point. We arrived around midnight in pitch-black (there was no moon and plenty of low cloud that blocked out the stars) and anchored in six metres of water.

We woke early on the 16th to dash across the last eight nautical miles to the first waypoint of the Wide Bay Bar. We wanted to make the crossing while the tide was rising, but also wanted to wait for first light so we had everything working in our favour.

Wide Bar Bar was tranquil with no breaking waves in the shallow channel and we were pulled rapidly into the waters behind Fraser Island. We love to hitch a lift when we can as it's nice to see Lucey Blue traveling at about nine knots over the ground when we are only moving at seven through the water!

We decided to try and ride the tide all the way through the narrow channels behind Fraser Island to Hervey Bay. The conditions were perfect, but we needed to maintain the tidal advantage if we were going to clear the shallows near Boonlye Point. We nearly ran aground there last time and had no desire to get stuck.

We passed a number of yachts along the way and managed to sneak through the worst bits just on high tide. By the time we had cleared the Fairway light on Hervey Bay our boat speed across the ground had hit ten knots. We had been sucked in at one end of Fraser Island and spat out the other end in a day which is a record for us.

The crew of Lucey Blue kept their eyes peeled for sealife on Harvey Bay and Eric spent hours seagazing with Dad on the front trampolines, but the whales alluded us this time.

We arrived off Burrent Heads at dusk and gently pulled into the Bundaberg Port Marina at around 18:00 with the help of another yachtie - Gayle from Electra.

Brisbane - What a great city!

We love Brisbane and Dockside Marina which is located in the heart of the city. The free City Hopper Ferry program is great and we spent a week or so pottering about town and visiting the local attractions.

The temperature in Brisbane was much better than Sydney and the kids even went for a swim at South Bank in the water park beside the river.  But the local news described the conditions as the 'coldest period' for a decade or something like that. I guess it's all just a matter of perspective!

We had hoped to call on friends, but there is always things to do on a boat, especially when you have just started a voyage, so we ran out of time on this stop - lucky we are coming back when we sail south later in the year.

We were keen to keep moving further north so we jumped on the next good weather window and made a beeline to Bundaberg...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The sail north - Sydney to Brisbane (well almost)...

With Lucey Blue ready to go we waited for a suitable weather wind to sail north to warmer weather.
The first opportunity arrived in early July and we scrabbled to leave Middle Harbour on the 14:30 Spit Bridge opening.

We left the harbour on the evening of the 5th of July and sailed/motorsailed north, hugging the coast to avoid the east Australian current that can flow at a speed of over three knots - not fun if you are traveling in the opposite direction!

Our new sails and feathering propellers proved themselves on the first night with Lucey Blue surging along at 8 to 9 knots in a 14 to 17 knot north westerly wind. By dawn we were located just north of Port Stephens on flat sea with a number of local fishing boats.

The wind died off during the day and swung around to the southwest so we motorsailed most of the next twenty four hours to keep up our boat speed. We enjoyed a visit from a pod of dolphins on the evening of the 6th and arrived off Coffs Harbour at dawn on the 7th of July.

We passed South Solitary Island in perfect conditions with blue skies and 15 to 20 knot southerly winds. Lucey Blue was really enjoying the conditions and her crew was entertained most of the day by humpback whales sunning themselves along the coast and thrashing their tails against the growing southerly swell.

By nightfall on the 7th Lucey Blue was located off Yamba and the weather forecast indicated that a change was due to hit the region overnight. We reduced sail that evening to a triple reefed main and our blade jib as there is nothing worse than having to reduce sail in rough conditions at night. We also decided to take Lucey Blue further offshore to gain extra searoom if required.

The southerly wind picked up steadily and Lucey Blue sailed along at 8 to 9 knots in the growing seas. By midnight we were located off Ballina in two to three metre seas. Unfortunately we also found the east Australian current was running strongly at two knots against the sea which was making the waves rather pointy.

The southerly front hit at around 02:00 on the 8th of July with 35 to 40 knot winds, three metre breaking waves and heavy rain. Lucey Blue was sailing safely, but our boat speed was too high for conservative cruising folk - consistently 10 plus knots - and we were slewing around as we surfed down waves at 15 plus knots.

To reduce the load generated by the sails/sea we reduced sail to just the triple reefed main and unfeathered our MaxProp propellers. The postive impact on the boat's motion and our overall comfort was dramatic. Most of the improvement came from using our now rotating unfeathered propellers as mini sea drouges to provide extra drag at the stern. We had not considered using the propellers in this fashion when we purchased them, but the ability to change from no drag (feathered propellers) to drag (unfeathered propellers) is a fantastic feature.

After a long wet and rather bouncy night we decided to pull into the Gold Coast Seaway and by about 10:00 on the 8th of July we were anchored just behind Seaworld and watching filming of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie!

We left the next moring and motored through the narrows behind the Stradbroke Islands before reaching Dockside Marina on the Brisbane river at 17:00. The trip through the backwaters was fun, but obviously not everyone makes it through the shallows and overhanging powerlines safely...

The Second Journey - Mid 2015 to Early 2016

We had a plan, well sort of a plan, to head out to sea again as a family between mid 2015 and early 2016. The objective was to find somewhere warm, with plenty of fish and lots of islands to explore, but as always the exact destination was unclear.

After the usual challenge of packing up the house, sorting out schooling and escaping work we found ourselves aboard Lucey Blue in mid May still with a moutain of work to complete - including replacing all the house batteries, installing a new Dometic Masterflush toilet, servicing the Liferaft, updating all the running ropes and provisioning the boat.

We hoped to leave Sydney in about three weeks and sail away as quickly as possible. We really wanted to explore New Caledonia and Vanuatu this year, but to do so we needed to stay on track and avoid unexpected delays.

The kids settled into boat life quickly and we hurled headlong into the list of jobs while exploring Sydney and visiting our favourite locations - including Quarantine Station and Bantry Bay.

We even made it to a few of the Vivid Sydney locations to watch the light shows which was a real hit with the family.

While our return to boat life was relatively easy we ran into a series of issues that took longer to resolve than anticipated - including a cracked end cap on our Spectra Watermaker and damage to one of our large curved saloon windows caused by a flying dinghy in a 40 plus knot southerly change.

We ended up stuck for several additonal weeks waiting for parts. Once they arrived we decided to head north to Queensland to escape the cold of Sydney. The South Pacific would have to wait for another year, but we were all looking forward to the adventure ahead...