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NEW ZEALAND to AUSTRALIA

 After a pleasant month’s stay in the fair city of Auckland doing much walkabout and fixing boat bits, a haul out, antifouling, having the cooker refurbished  from a single burner back to double burner together with the grill and oven, o’ heaven,  28th March sees us exit the excellent Pier 21 Marina .  A fine sail to Whaikie anchoring for the night, then on  to the Island of Kawau spending a few days exploring and having evening drinks in the local YC. Over the next four days we sail back to the Bay of Islands setting our hook in various splendid anchorages along the way. Stayed a few days in Urupukapuka, (just love the names), hiking around the island, splendid walking. Sailing back into Russell we encounter a large pod of dolphins that frolicked with us for 30 minutes.  By the 6th April we are on a mooring back in Opua. Over the next month we await a weather window to sail north but a large blocking high sits to the east and maintains a fresh to gale force northerly flow. On the 29 / 30th a savage storm goes through. In the mean time we walk and meet up with friends in the Opua Sailing Club. Invited to a local house for an evening meal we are entertained by a top class female barber shop ensemble ‘The Frankly Scarlets’ who happened by.

 

9 May many boats leave heading north suffering from Fiji- itis, this is a phenomena brought on by the cold of an encroaching winter, the call of the tropics and enhanced by the herd instinct. 10 days out and some were still beating, lots of damage reported including one mast down.  A few return with gear damage, autopilots are top of the list.  A 55’ ketch limps in after enduring a 360 roll on its way up the Tasman Sea in 60 knots of wind, we wait on.

 

16th May; 13.00 the weather direction turns in our favour, we exit  for New Caledonia. The wind is 25knots and gusting on the beam a residual north east swell battles with the new seas, a few miles out from land we are awash, leaks which have never leaked are found by the clawing sea. As we clear the top of North Island a 7meter swell stirred up by a previous storm in the Tasman joins in the melee.  Thankfully the following day the wind backs aft.  Our forecast consistently gave us force five dropping to three. The reality was a consistent 25 to 35 knots gusting over 40; our dodgers were shredded and bailed up. The skippers biggest fright was a broach down the front of a ridiculously sized wave which caught the triple reefed main aback and had the preventer failed could have carried away our runner and perhaps the mast.  The main was immediately stowed. The remainder of the fast and wet trip was under staysail and a touch of the poled headsail. As we moved north in the cold Antarctic air a magnificent wandering albatross wheeled about our ship bidding us adieu, shall we ere see its like again.

 

23rd May; 18.45 Kay calls ‘land ahoy’  the flash of the Amadee Light is raised. Once we ascertain that the lights line up and correspond to the chart, cautiously we push through the reef entrance under engine. The 20 miles to the dock were well lit and at 12.30 we tied at Noumea. The customs and clearance are friendly, painless and without charge.  Over the next week we sew up our dodgers and fit more robust book restraints. The marina stay was a very social affair and a big cultural change is that there are no American boats.  Americans never appear to be comfortable with the French, me thinks they are embarrassed with that big statue they got from them!.  The town has a flavour of its own, a touch untidy and in desperate need of better architects.

 

3rd June; well off the coast of New Caledonia the first night out wind falls light and the sea turns glassy calm.  A million water fairies dance beneath the waves in the footlights of phosphorescence.  A million stars mirror in the undulating surface completing the illusion that we are in a ship of the cosmos voyaging through deep space, a green meteorite enters and applauds and we gaze in awe at the riches of it all.    Later we notice in the back cabin flashes of light from the sea water strainer as ‘sea fairies ‘are sucked through the cooling system.  I’m sure they do not approve.  If the trip from NZ was characterised by a surfeit of breeze this trip had light and fickle airs, we sail, motor sail and watch the suns coming and going with spectacular sets and rises.….6th June hit by a squall that rips the clew ring out of the mainsail, we put the first reef in and that sorts it but we will miss the full main in the light airs. The stitching to the clew had been weakened by UV degradation, it had been peeping out the back of the sail cover.

 

9th June; A cold south westerly wind arrives we pile on clothes and reefs as the wind hardens on the nose, we can no longer lay the course to the Bundaberg entrance.  Decision made  to press on to the coast hoping for less sea before  tacking, we had been set down 27 miles,  it was 05.00 before we slid into the well lit entrance found the quarantine dock. Australia bedad and crashed into bed.

 

10th June; Customs and Quarantine were most welcoming and courteous, contrary to expectations but did relieve us of $330 Aus (approx Euros250) , the skipper pointed out how that was more than all the countries we had visited combined.  They apologized and pointed out that had we arrived on a weekend it would have been $660.  After a day or so tending to Pylades we hire a car and head south to visit cousins in Moffet Beach, wined and dined and treated royally for two days, walking through a small section of rainforest we see our first marsupial, a small forest kangaroo – most enjoyable time.

 

19th June sees us commence a series of day hops up the coast of Queensland, beginning every morning at 05.30 often arriving in the dark at the chosen anchorage. The first was Pancake Creek, which we never saw in daylight but provided a tranquil night to sip, sup and sleep. Passing Gladstone Harbour we counted 17 bulk carriers on anchor awaiting cargo.  It is the non sustainable mining of Australia that is the key to its present day riches and solvency, most of its extracts head for China.  In contrast the state of Australia’s agriculture is poor due to soil conditions and water shortages; there are indeed those who argue  for its abolition on economic grounds.  In many locations we receive national radio and listen in to very erudite science based interviews, they provide us with a great feel for the state of things and minds in Australia.

 

Sailing as dreamed of, flying north in 15kt southeasterly winds with clear blue skies and breathtaking sunsets. The coast line is studded with hundreds of islands which are generally barren but picturesque with long sandy deserted beaches.  We land, explore and swim when we get in early enough. On passage we observed very few yachts or vessels of any kind. In the very beautiful Pearl Bay a whale is feeding and in the evening we hear Irish music being played on a flute, The skipper answers with some box tunes, some of the tunes even match up, all very magical.  We never meet as we are gone by dawn.  

 

24th June; after a particularly fast but boisterous passage we tie at Mackay  with some difficulty.  Taking a walk Kay takes a fall and breaks two fingers. The next day is spent being attended to by the friendliest staff in Mackay Base Hospital.  X-rays determine that she must undergo a full anesthetic and a resetting in the operating theatre, she is kept in overnight. We are told by a staff member not to have any worries on costs as Australia and Ireland have a reciprocal health care agreement and all medical care costs will be covered.  A direct result one can argue of the Bolshevik Revolution!.  Kay returns to the hospital for check up five days later.

 

News arrives that ‘Troutbridge’ a catamaran on which we had drinks in NZ just before we left had hit the reef in Fiji. It rips the keels, rudders and skegs off. Peter escapes with his life, just.  They have now managed to get it off and it is now under repair, it was his home and did not have insurance. This is the seventh boat we now have known to be lost, shot up or captured on our cruise, one defiantly has to keep on one toes every second.

 

2nd July; tricky exit from Mackay with stiff cross wind and Kay not her agile self takes the tiller, we get away with it and head for the Whitsunday Islands. Sailing between the islands is wonderful and here for the first time we encounter many chartered boats. We are now a bit behind in our schedule so between that and our reduced woman power when we anchor in Dugong inlet we do not launch our dingy and land. Its raining anyway and no dugongs are sighted.  Next day we pass Nara Inlet and reflect on the 13 sailors who while attempting to shelter aboard their vessels from Cyclone Ada, died on there January 1970.

 

5th July; after a night at Hazard Bay, Orpheus Island we negotiate the very shallow entrance to the Hinchinbrook Channel at Lucinda, this proved to be a stunning diversion, 25 miles of calm water edged in mangrove, impenetrable forest with the 1142 meter high crags of Mt. Bowen dominating. Anchoring in the very quite Paluma creek the moon joins in our toast to the splendor of it all. A noticeable rise in temperature has the duvet being put aside and clothes being thrown off, but defiantly no jumping over the side.  On the night of July 6 having negotiated the long well lit entrance to Cairns the anchor is bedded at 06.00 in the channel opposite the marina.  Some sleep is grabbed and we tie at the Marlin Marina a few hours later. Off then for more x-rays and very good attention at the base hospital the reports are excellent all is coming together so we celebrate with a meal at an Indian restaurant which was also excellent. Cairns, a manicured city of straight lines, difficult to appreciate for those of us used to European cities, laid down and enriched by the complex tapestry of time.  The people we encounter are most welcoming, there is an air of wealth everywhere engendered by mining, property prices are booming, we read in a  newspaper of a cook working offshore on $435,000 pa. Expensive restaurants have to be booked months ahead… where have we heard all this before….The next few days are spent stocking food, wine, water and diesel as between here and Darwin supplies will be limited.

 

11th July; heading overnight to Lizard Island strong wind warnings are about and it holds between 25 to 30 knots a bit too fresh for comfort but with three reefs in the main and a section of poled out genny great for speed.  Over the next period its, sail all day arrive at dusk leave at dawn such places as, the amazing boulder hills off Cape Melville, where we briefly sight a dugong, Morris Islet a single palm tree on some scrub on a reef, Lloyd Bay and Margaret’s Bay.  . Everywhere the evidence of Captain Cook, who appeared to set the name on just about every cape, bay and island on the coast.  We also reflect on how close he was to losing Endeavour on a reef and had that happened it is likely Australia might now be French speaking.   As we are running tight in these enhanced trades following safe or shipping passages through the reefs we are constantly gybeing the rig and the skipper develops ‘winchers elbow’.  With Kay’s plastered hand and the skippers bandaged elbow we now make a right pair of single handed sailors.

 

18th  Another fresh day 25 to 30 knots ,exiting the Escape River with these winds, associated seas and but 4.5 meters of water the skippers heart is again in his mouth.  Maybe that’s why its called the Escape River, we escape and head for the Alderney Passage, it’s a neap tide but our speeds are still a good two knots plus on to every thing Pylades can do, we zing along at 8 knots.  At 13.30 rounding Cape York into the Torres Straits, we bid farewell to the Pacific which will forever dwell in the deepest recesses of our being. Close hauling at the other side of the Cape, Red Island is sighted and after yet more shallow water and more heart stopping moments we anchor at Seisia and reminisce.

 

Next day with a good arm each we launch the dingy and land, first time in eight days. Notices abound about crocodiles, ‘do not swim nor stand near waters edge’,etc.  There is a monument close by to one of our species taken by a croc from this beach.  The main feature of the area is a campsite populated by 4WDs as there are only tracks leading in the challenge apparently is just to get here, some of the vehicles are fitted with snorkels for fording rivers, all very macho. In the small supermarket, we stock up, dispose of garbage, take a shower at the campsite. Our boat water stock is down to less than third so no fresh water showers until Darwin.

 

21st July; at low water after lunch we catch the west running flood and head through the shallow Endeavour Strait, across the 300 mile wide Gulf of Carpentaria,  Papua New Guinea and the isles of the Torres Straits are to our  north.  Leaving the Wessell Island group to the south we press on across the Arafura Sea  down through Van Diemen Gulf maintaining a flood tide by luck rather than design through the Clarance Strait.  The run was at times fast but the winds held fair and 750 miles from Seisia the anchor hit ground in Fannie Bay, Darwin at 02.00 on the 27th.   Later a young lady from the fisheries department dives under our hull and shoots chemicals into our sea water intakes to cleanse us of any evildoers we might carry with us into the locked dock of Cullen Bay Marina.

 

28th July; we pass through the $240 a lift dock gate.  The city is called after the scientist whom our voyage pursues in many varied aspects.   Enquiring at the tourist office as to what might be on offer in the way of monuments to Charles Darwin and his works such as permanent exhibitions, the girl behind the counter initially exclaimed, who was he? We are informed there are none.  On perusing glossy brochures extolling the virtues of the city there is no mention of Mr. Darwin or his revolutionary findings, which turned the history of mankind and his belief systems on their head. However all is not lost, for outside the county library stands a bust of the Charles D. himself and a ships bell bearing the name HMS Beagle.

 

Miles sailed since Bellharbour; 20572    

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Posted: 5:53:16 AM - 8/4/2011

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