October 19th. The first step in our journey back to Sydney, where we hope to arrive sometime in December. After filling water and fuel tanks, and paying the bill, we were away from Port Douglas just after 8:30am. As we made our way out of the river entrance, we passed Derek, Colleen and Jackie who had just landed. Our destination was Fitzroy Is, where we had anchored on the way up. This time we were able to enjoy the resort, which mainly caters for day-trippers from Cairns with a few cabins and bunk-houses for overnight guests. It has a pool, several food outlets and bars, most of which close at 5pm after the last of the day-trippers has left.
October 20th. Around 8am, we were buzzed by 5 helicopters, constantly landing and returning to the mainland. We later found out that is was the Hong Kong version of 'Survivor' filming a segment on Little Fitzroy.
We were feeling fresh and energetic, so decided to tackle the Summit-Lighthouse circuit, about 3km with a 300m climb. Well, we made it to the top, but with quite a few stops to cool off. The view was worth the climb, as was the diversion to the modern (1973) lighthouse built of stainless steel and ceramic tiles. It was decommissioned in 1991 and replaced by an automated light on Little Fitzroy. The walk back to the resort was not as enjoyable, being concrete tracks for vehicle access, and mainly out in the hot sun.
After that exertion, we had to cool off in the pool before taking lunch. A more leisurely walk around to Nudey Beach was followed by another swim, and then drinks by the pool.
October 21st. We decided that Mourilyan Harbour would be a good anchorage as 25kt winds were forecast for the evening. It lies 40NM south of Fitzroy Is, an easy day's travelling. The day started with a nor'easter about 10kts which didn't do much to the sails. Later it swung around the the southwest, which got us sailing for a while, then sou'east, right on the nose. So it was a mixture of motoring, motor-sailing and pure sailing with all sails up, including the staysail. Mourilyan Harbour is a sugar loading port, with a quite narrow entrance (190m) which was easily missed by early mariners. We made it just in time, getting the anchor down not long before quite heavy rain hit us. Nearby Innisfail had 112mm overnight.
October 22nd. The forecast was 20-25 kts sou'east. That, combined with the likelihood of a rolly anchorage at Dunk Is 4 hours away, meant that we would have a lazy day in Mourilyan Harbour.
October 23 - 24. The winds eased around to the east, so we left Mourilyan Harbour for Dunk Is, an easy 4 hour trip. We took the inflatable ashore for a walk through the resort, and possibly a swim. The recent train made the water a bit murky, so we passed on the swim. A trip to Purtaboi Island was a waste of time, as it is a special nesting place, so no landing is allowed from October - March. From Dunk we headed for the Hinchinbrook Channel with the intention of staying there. The flies put us off, even though we did have a net around the cockpit. So we pushed on, via Lucinda Port, along the very long conveyor (about 5 km) and on to Orpheus Island for an overnight anchorage.
Views along the Hinchinbrook Channel
October 25-27. We wanted to get to Townsville by Friday, so we headed for Magnetic Island for the night. This was an easy run, mainly motor-sailing as the wind was light from the NE. We anchored in Horseshoe Bay on the northern side, took the dinghy ashore and then caught the bus around to Picnic Bay. Magnetic Is is very scenic with massive granite boulders and outcrops, and secluded beaches. It attracts many people who catch the ferries over from Townsville. Well worth a visit! Time was pressing, so the next morning we made our way into Townsville Marina. Mail was waiting for us, so after collecting it, we all went to the Aquarium for a few hours. This was also very well presented and interesting. Meanwhile Larry and Alison arranged their hire car to take them back to Cairns.
We all enjoyed an early morning walk along The Strand - an excellent park along the waterfront. We had enjoyed it immensely on our earlier visit. Soon it was time for Larry and Alison to collect their car, so fond farewells were made at the marina, after a most enjoyable 16 days together.
October 28 - 29. Again, the winds were light and behind us for most of the time. We put the sails up, but there was little drive until the afternoon. Our first stop was Cape Bowling Green, a very uninteresting stop about 35NM from Townsville. Next stop was to be Cape Upstart, another 35NM, but the breeze was pretty good when we got there, so we decided to press on to Bowen. We arrived in Queens Bay around 10pm, a 12 hour day.
October 30 - Nov 2. Whitsundays again. As we had spent a fair amount of time here last year, we only stayed long enough to collect mail, vote, and provision. We had stops in Blue Pearl Bay, Nara Inlet, Shute Harbour and Lindeman Island. After leaving Shute Harbour, the autopilot stopped working. Hand steering is no fun! The winds were better, again mainly in the afternoon as the seabreezes built up. There was a 25kt southerly forecast , so we decided to bypass Brampton Is and head directly for Mackay.
Nov 3 - 6. Mackay Marina was our home once again while we waited for the TMQ autopilot to be fixed. I had determined that it was a faulty relay and not the expensive power transistors. The relay had to come from Brisbane, so that held us up a bit. Melbourne Cup day passed with little interest.
Nov 7 - Nov 12. Again we pressed on south via Middle Percy Island, Pearl Bay, Pancake Creek to Bundaberg. As we approached Bundaberg we heard that a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued. However it held off until much later that night (Sunday). Next day, a trip to town in the courtesy bus to collect mail and do some more provisioning.
Nov 13 - 22. The winds weren't too nice on the Tuesday, so we stayed in Port. On Wednesday, the forecast was for E - NE, but another SE change was predicted for Thursday. We planned to leave after lunch so that we could get to Fraser Is before the change. As we pulled out from our berth, we discovered that we had no forward drive! The prevailing breeze caused a minor collision with another boat's dinghy which resulted in some cracks in same. Luckily the owner was most understanding, and the repair was easily and cheaply affected.
Fortunately friend Don from 'Blacks Myth' was helping us depart, so he and a couple of others managed to haul us into an empty berth. He then helped me get the gearbox out and off to Brisbane for repair. We hoped to have it back here by Wednesday of the next week.
Here follows an abbreviated log after getting the gearbox back from Brisbane ...
Nov 22-23 Flywheel returned after machining (needed for new damper plate). Gearbox re-installed with help from Greg on 'Windchimes'. Reconnected hoses for cooling and fuel. Tested gearbox by trying to pull marina berth out of the ground. Passed (well, failed to move jetty). Visited 'Astor' a beautiful Fife schooner, 84' long and 87 years old.
Nov 24 Departed Bundberg at 5am uneventfully. Sailed all day with NE - NW winds generally 10-15kts but increased in the afternoon. We got into the Great Sand[fl]y Straits around 5pm and anchored near Bookar Island.
Nov 25, another 5am start to get to the shallowest part at high tide. This meant that we travelled most of the way through the Straits on a falling tide, but had the advantage of about 2kt current pushing us along. We arrived at the Wide Bar Bay around 9:30am, with a NW wind blowing and a fairly low state of the tide. Combined with the swell coming from the NE, the ride through was a bit choppy, but not too bad. From there it was straight down to Mooloolaba where we arrived at 6pm to a welcoming committee made up with 'Top Hat' John (Hicks), 'Sounder' John and Anne Marie, Harry and Muriel from 'Raindancer'. It was great to be back in our second home, if only for a short time. Strong wind warnings kept us in for a few more days.
Nov 30. Departed for Manly at 7am, again with the above committee seeing us off. The wind was fairly light so once again it was a mixture of sailing and/or motoring. The water was pretty shallow in the East Coast Marina, but we made it in with no dramas. Dinner that night was fish 'n' chips with friends Peter and Di.
Dec 2. Friend and PBYC member Peter Munckton joined us for the trip down the NSW Coast. Peter has quite extensive knowlege of this area, so he was a most welcome crew member. Our first test was to negotiate the Broadwater without running aground. This was achieved easily, arriving at Southport around 1pm. We refuelled at the yacht Club before heading up to 'Bums Bay' near Seaworld. That night we had dinner at the Yacht Club with Stewart and Mary Anne Wright.
Dec 3 - 5. We needed to pick up some mail at Southport, so we didn't get away until 11:30am. Met Alan Lucas and his wife and discussed the weather forecast. Alan thought a change was coming through quickly and decided to wait. Our reading was that there was no problem, so we went. A good breeze stayed with us - in fact at one stage it was a bit too strong as we surfed down waves at 9 kts. We furled some of the headsail in so we proceeded a bit more slowly but more comfortably. (4th ) Sunrise saw us off Yamba with a fleet of fishing boats. We followed them in over the bar with no problems, and headed to Iluka on the northern side of the river. Luckily we picked up a mooring which was good as the winds had picked up quite a bit. (5th) The forecast was for continuing southerly winds so we took advantage of the delay to go for a walk in the World Heritage Rainforest, followed by lunch in the pub.
Dec 6. Left Iluka at 7:30 in almost no wind, in fact we didn't see much all day, so on with the motor again. We arrived in Coffs Harbour just after 4:30 and found ourselves tied up next to 'Shanti III'. This was the boat we originally went to Southport to inspect, but finished up buying 'Meridian'.
Dec 7-8. Another motor-sail to Port Macquarie. During this passage, the autopilot started complaining about being off-course, so we had to hand steer again. The crossing of the bar at 6pm was on a run-out tide, so waves were breaking all across the bar. We managed to keep a straight course with Peter's help (I was told not to look behind!). After tying up in the marina, we found the RSL for a reasonable meal at a cheap price. While Peter went out with his sisters and had lunch with their mother, I investigated the autopilot problem. I narrowed it down to a broken wire in the fluxgate compass which I was able to bypass. It seems to be OK now.
Dec 9. Another early morning start, leaving the marina at 4am, crossed the bar at 4:20, right on high tide so it was flat. Another motoring day,all the way to Broughton Island. As we approached, Peter was pulling in the handline. As the lure was almost at the back of the boat, a fish had several goes at it. Peter let it out again, and caught the fish, which we believe was a yellow tailed kingfish. Peter landed the fish which was about 2' long. Unfortunately, the lure broke, and the fish escaped. That night we tied up to a public mooring in Coalshaft Bay.
Dec 10. Coalshaft Bay - Nelson Bay. We went into d'Albora Marina for the night. The berthing fee of $65 was a bit of a shock, but the facilities were the best we'd seen.
Dec 11. Left in strong westerly breeze, in fact after we left Tomaree Head, we decided it was a bit too strong, so we reefed the main and motor-sailed into it. The seas were right on the nose, so the dodger got a fair testing as spray flew up from the bow (there were some minor leaks). The wind eventually swung around to the southeast. The seas were beam on and we rolled quite a lot. As the fuel was below 50%, we sucked some air into the line. This caused the motor to splutter a bit, until we turned the port tank off. Near Cape Three Points Peter caught another fish, this time a Bonito which made great sashimi. We passed Barrenjoey at 7pm. It was a great feeling to enter Pittwater again after nearly two years. That night we tied up in Lovett Bay on Larry and Alison's mooring.
Dec 12. Peter left us, going to visit his children before returning to Brisbane. A quiet day during which Judy did the laundry while Alison was at work. That afternoon we helped Larry pick up 'Spring Fever' from Newport.
Dec 13. Refuelled in Careel Bay before heading up to Refuge Bay with 'Spring Fever'. There we had our first raft-up in 'Meridian'.
Dec 14. Left Refuge Bay at 9am for Sydney. Passed North Head around 12:30, then we were welcomed to the harbour by boats such as 'Nicorette', 'Brindabella', etc. We headed straight to Blackwattle bay near the Fish Markets, where there were another 8 boats. We found a spot which seemed OK ...
Dec 15. We were advised by the Waterways officer that we were outside the line between the point and the rowing club, and would have to move (along with 3 others). We are now around the corner in Rozelle Baywhere it is nice and quiet, has a nice park outlook, and parking the car is easy. Dinghy access is also good, so all-in-all, the move was beneficial. That night, Meredith rang to tell us that labour had started so we went to stay with her. She went into the hospital around 2:30am.
Dec 16. We went into the hospital around 9, and stayed there until Claire was born at 15:31, weighing in at 6lb 6oz (2.895 kg) and 49cm long. Mother, father, baby and grandparents all doing well! So all our haste (and motoring) was rewarded! We had covered nearly 1500 NM from Port Douglas to Sydney in less than two months.