Capricorn waters…

After our recent sojourn into the workforce, it was a pleasure to spend some daytime aboard Blue Heeler making sure all’s well for the next leg of our journey. Staying a further week in Manly Harbour to receive our brand new Swift dinghy allowed us to tick off a few more tasks from the never-ending list of things to do. While Wayne installed a new TV (luxury item, I know), I fitted a clear plastic window in the roof of our bimini so that we can easily view the windex (thanks for the suggestion Kathy!). It wasn’t all work though; we also caught up again with my cousin and wife for a feed of Indian, and a couple of nights later we went out with one of Wayne’s old RAAF mates for a feed of Thai.

Fully loaded with supplies and raring to get the old sea-legs working once more, we filled up with fuel at the RQYS 24 hour facility. Our first anchorage for the night was a short 5nm away on the west coast of St Helena Island. The following day we motor-sailed 17nm to Tangalooma and anchored just south of the rusty old wrecks scuttled there between the 1960s to 1980s. Incessant swell resulted a roly-poly disrupted sleep that night. Leaving at high tide the next day for a 45nm sail across to Mooloolaba we sailed with a south-easterly 20knot breeze with short and choppy seas. Blue Heeler averaged 6nm per hour – good by our standards. We arrived at the Mooloolaba harbour entry at low tide; although not ideal to arrive at low tide, we stayed on the port side of the entry to avoid the shallows and to keep at least 0.5m of water under the keel. Passing alongside the many fishing boats and yachts in the marinas we anchored in 3m of water on the western end of the harbour.

The few days we had in Mooloolaba were windy while we waited for conditions to improve for the ongoing journey. Due to the timing of the tides and strong winds, it wasn’t suitable to leave during the day and arrive at our destination – Wide Bay Bar – at night, so after four days, we left Mooloolaba at high tide at 9pm on Saturday night to make the 12 hour voyage to arrive at the Wide Bay Bar of the Great Sandy Straight in daylight and on the top of a flood tide. With our chart plotter in night mode and our warm clothes on, we raised anchor and motored along the channel towards the harbour entrance. Once out of the harbour it was time to unfurl the main. Unfortunately though the main sail jammed at the first spreader causing a short delay for us as we tried and eventually freed the sail. After juggling between pulling the outhaul and tightening the mainsheet, being careful not to rip the sail, the main unfurled and we set the sail on a starboard tack for the 60nm journey.

The day after we’d left Mooloolaba, I received an email from fellow Melbourne sailors. Jenny and John of Corazon arrived at Mooloolaba two hours before we departed, but as it was night we didn’t see them as we motored out in the darkness. It’s true what they say “like ships in the night….”.

One our way to the Great Sandy Strait, the seas were short and choppy and the 1.5m swell slapped against the beam of Blue Heeler for most of the night causing a great deal of unwanted yawing. We could have turned more into the swell, but we wanted to maintain a direct route. I went down for a two hour break then relieved Wayne at 1.30am. He popped back up at 4.30am so I snuck in an hour or so of sleep until 6am.

The wind dropped right off at sunrise so we motor-sailed the final couple of hours. With the engine on, it was a good opportunity to generate some water from the watermaker. After an hour of running it, which should have put over 45 litres of freshwater into the tank, I heard an unusual sound of sloshing water (given that all I ever hear is sloshing water, this was noticeably different). Looking in the locker I could see water gushing out of the box that houses the two feed pumps. We quickly turned the watermaker off and would have a closer inspection once at anchor.

At the Wide Bay Bar we were guided by the white light on the directional beacon which made the bar crossing quite straightforward as the depth reduced from 20m to 4m in a short distance. We bypassed Pelican Point anchorage and motored the 11nms to Garry’s Anchorage, which turned out to be a good idea as it’s such a lovely peaceful spot. Once we’d anchored we had a bite of lunch then an afternoon nap to make up for the missing sleep the night before. Waking at dusk a little more refreshed, I had a quick shower then prepared a big dish of ricotta and spinach ravioli and the obligatory glass of red wine for the crew!

The following day Wayne identified the problem with the watermaker; a hose had blown which he easily replaced with a spare hose we had on board. Wayne also saw a small leak on a fitting at one end of our desalinator membrane. As he grabbed the fitting for a closer look, the brass elbow broke in half upon his touch. It was corroded through and was covered in goop that looked like a bad attempt to fix a past leak. That little task would need a bit more thought as we didn’t have a spare brass elbow. Once we’d reached Urangan some 35nm away, we ‘Googled’ hydraulic parts and located a part from Pirtek. After waiting two days for the part to be sent from Brisbane, we finally received it on Friday 8th and Wayne set about fitting it. In no time at all, he had the watermaker purring and producing fresh water. With the tanks slowly filling with fresh water, Wayne ran the empty fuel containers over to the marina and filled them, while I set about getting the boat ready for departure. We left at 4pm in the afternoon for a 92nm night crossing to Lady Musgrave Island.

It was a lovely night for a sail – a half-moon and south westerly winds between 15/20 knots for most of the night allowed Blue Heeler to sail the entire distance on one tack. There was short period where the wind died and we had to run the engine, otherwise we made good time, arriving at Lady Musgrave by 9.30am on Saturday 9th July. My only thought for the crossing was whether or not we’d see any whales. I was hoping that we wouldn’t hit any during the night. Once inside Lady Musgrave, we could actually see spouts from whales’ blowholes as they played outside the reef.

The entrance to Lady Musgrave is very (and I mean very) narrow with exposed coral on each side at low tide. The port side isolated danger beacon was missing (apparently destroyed but I don’t know who or what by), with only a port, two green beacons and a starboard isolated danger mark remaining. I kept a lookout from the bow for yellowish coral bommies and guided Wayne around any that posed a threat. Once in we turned directly towards the island making our way towards the anchorage area. With nothing to block the wind within the cay, the wind remained constant at 15/20knots throughout the night and the following morning.

Once the wind died down the following afternoon, we retrieved our scuba gear from various lockers. The gear is pretty new so it was good to try it out in the water to make sure it all works and fits okay. There’s some nice diving spots at Lady Musgrave but as the light was going we had to go back to Blue Heeler and pack all the gear away before the evening winds came in, which they did at around midnight until midday the following day – up to 25 knots from the south west.

We left Lady Musgrave yesterday passing through the narrow coral entrance then turning west for a short while before setting our course for Great Keppell Island. The wind was once again favourable to our course and we managed to do 96nm in 17 hours – again pretty good by our standards. We passed over the Tropic of Capricorn sometime around 1am in the morning while I was on watch. Although the wind died at one spot for a few hours, we managed to sail most of the way, rounding Great Keppell Island just before 7am this morning.

I’ve just finished a feed of French toast and I’m going to have a coffee and read my Kindle. I’ve just finished the book “Life” by Keith Richards and I’m now reading “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts – true story about an Australian writer who got divorced, ended up on heroin and took up robbery only to be incarcerated for 19 years; escaped and made his way to India. I’m enjoying this book so far and would love to hear suggestions of other good books to read. Bye for now.
– Al.

About blueheelerhr39

Sailing the world aboard Blue Heeler
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