One door closes, the next opens… Dini leaving for Tasmania was difficult for us both but the time had come and so it was that she boarded the plane and made her way South…. as I must… but a hell of lot quicker.
In the days that followed I reorganised the boat, did some maintenance tasks and prepared for the hop to Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. As the first hop from Yeppoon to Bundaberg was longer it meant an overnight sail.
I am happy to report that this went well with some spectacular scenes along the way of sailing in starlight and passing the massive freighters at anchor off Gladstone all lit up like mini cities.
Best of all I was able to complete the majority of the journey without resorting to mechanical means. The delightful sail from Cape Capricorn to Bustard Head was refreshing and enjoyable. Such perfect conditions are rare and becoming rarer as the global warming phenomenon begins to take hold.
By midday the following day I’d reached Bundaberg and entered the breakwater. With the wind swinging to the North and freshening that morning a largish chop had developed and was making Freespirit pitch around awkwardly. I was glad to anchor once more in the wide and peaceful Burnett river and get some overdue sleep and nourishment.
This leg was also a field test for my new VHF radio. This model, the GME GX750 ‘Black Box’ has no dash mounting for the radio as all functions are on the handset. This means the plain black box can be mounted anywhere it’s convenient with only the handset and its cable needing to be located on the dashboard or somewhere close at hand. The mounting was easy and the all in one handset worked perfectly.
It has a Dual and a Triple watch facility which allows up to 3 stations to be monitored at all times. I found this convenient and easy to use and having the radio right where I can reach it meant I used it more often. The previous mount was down below and very inconvenient to use or even hear what was being said on it.
After a rest day at Bundaberg I left early morning for Hervey Bay. My good friends Dave and Bron Meikle have recently moved from Tasmania to Hervey Bay and were in the midst of painting, unpacking and making their new house a home. I’d offered some time ago to drop in and lend a hand in this
Shortly after arriving at the Urangan Marina we made contact and went out to dinner. The next few days were busy working on the house and unpacking with time out for just enjoying being together again after a long break.
Saturday came and this was when my new crew arrived. I had been advertising widely for another experienced person to sail with me to Tasmania. As I am anticipating quite a few overnight sails a second person to stand watch while I slept was a good safety measure and hopefully good company too. Robin is from Sweden, a backpacker on a working 12 month visa and due to fly out January 2017. A sailor back home with his own boat, he wanted to get some experience of the sailing in Australia, in particular the East Coast.
Leaving Hervey Bay in pleasant conditions we motorsailed down the Great Sandy Straits. Not a lot of wind to speak of but a nice day in all other aspects. There is one shallow spot in this traverse that requires the skipper to ‘work the tide’. This means arriving there near the top of the incoming tide to get enough water under your keel to pass through. This time we passed easily with about 70cm under us through the shallowest spot and from there onward towards Tin Can Bay. As we exited the Great Sandy Straits the wind picked up and Freespirit began to sail. I passed control to Robin and he sailed us perfectly up to our anchorage that night behind Inskip Point.
The anchorage here is very good with lots of protection and a good sandy bottom and so we slept well, ready to tackle the Wide Bay Bar early next morning. This notorious bar can be troublesome in adverse conditions, however I am happy to report that this crossing in calm weather and small swell went without a hitch. Starting our day at 4am is not fun for those who love their bunk time but if we were to cross the bar with a favourable tide and reach Mooloolaba before a forecast Southerly buster was to arrive (around 3pm that day) needs must.
The voyage went smoothly though the wind was a little fickle in its strength at times requiring the iron mainsail to be commissioned. With the sea becoming lumpy we arrived off the entrance around 1400 and after dousing sail, proceeded in to our marina berth. No sooner had we tied up when the Southerly came screaming in a full strength. Nice.
I booked us in to the Mooloolaba Marina until Sunday morning when we head South once more, this time to spend two nights at Manly. The following Monday has been forecast with winds up to 30 kn from the North and so the protection of a marina seems like a good place to be then. After this we head to the Gold Coast and thence to the open sea.