Friday, November 22, 2013

Wizard of Oz: Ocean Edition

As I mentioned in the last post, we were currently at the time of the month with lowest low tides, this also meant that we had the highest highs! When we had arrived at Kingfisher Bay, it was high tide and we were now trying to leave at the low. We had a LONG way to drag Dingbat, which with her outboard and jugs full of water, it not a light boat. So we set at it. We could see the predicted storms across the bay and wanted to get back to Aquabat before they got over to us. As we were dragging Dingbat down to the water, both Bryce and I noticed a weird finger-like cloud pointing out of the sky. We both had our thoughts as to what it could be but just dismissed it as weird because things like that are so rare and would never happen here! This was a good lesson/reminder to trust our instincts. When we finally got down to the water, we were dragging the boat through knee high mug. When we got out far enough, I got in and Bryce tried to drag us a little bit further before he got in too. With both of us in the boat, we were essentially sitting in the mud. Bryce started to “row” us out through the mud and it was at this point that I noticed that the waterspout had formed. 
I pointed it out to Bryce and he looked up, noted it and kept rowing with a bit more urgency, determined to get us out of the mud. It was about this time that we could here yells coming from people up at the Beach Hut, making sure that we knew that there was a waterspout behind us. Thanks guys, we were well aware! I was fighting the urge to dig out our phone so that I could take pictures! I let Bryce go on rowing for as long I could (I think it was minutes, Bryce says it was 5 seconds) before I firmly declared that we needed to get out of there. Bryce nodded and said “You’re from the Midwest. What do we do?” Leaning on all my tornado drill experience, I decided we just needed to get out of the water. We set off with Dingbat, with me at the front and Bryce at the back, dragging her to tie her off under the jetty. When I got there, I looked back and Bryce was basically where I left him. Apparently, I just took off and he could’t keep up but wasn’t about to stop me. Superwoman here! We tied her off and went up to the beach hut to watch. On the way up there, I was so busy watching the waterspout behind me that I ran into one of the mollusk covered jetty pilings and cut up my foot a bit (It’s all healed now). Once we got up there, Bryce asked around and was able to find Carolyn and Greg who had taken these awesome photos of the waterspout and were willing to share them with us! Bryce pointed out that in a strange or perhaps not so strange coincidence, earlier in the day I had commented that the sky had an eerie yellowish tinge like that which precedes a tornado.
We got outta there and so did the ferry.
The spout didn’t last long and we finally felt it safe to head back to the boat. We walked back down under the jetty and were back to dragging Dingbat to the water. The second Bryce stepped out from under the jetty, the hair on his head all stood on end. His hair is quite long lately so this was a sight. I stepped out and my hair did the same (though mine was tied back so not as cool). The thunderstorms hadn’t started yet over here but there was clearly electricity in the air. After waiting and trying to leave multiple times, we decided to stay and wait out the storms. They were quite spectacular to watch and we eventually made it back to Aquabat around 5pm when there was a break in the storms. We hadn’t taken lunch or any money so we were pretty hungry by the time we made it back. 
It was eerie...
With the afternoon gone, we decided to stay where we were for the night! There is a ferry that makes 6-8 trips a day from Riverheads to the resort. In the middle of the storm that night, I poked my head up for a look and saw what looked like a roadtrain (the ferry) barreling down upon us, headlights glaring. This was obviously amplified by the dark and rain and other weather and the ferry turned into the dock with plenty of space to clear us, but I was momentarily terrified none the less. 

Bryce saysThat was an amazing day. I'll never forget us slogging through the mud with dingbat, giving her a haul and she'd move a couple of feet (SLURP and she suctioned out of the mud)... give another haul for another couple of feet... repeat ad nauseum. Give Alissa a waterspout chasing her down and she took off (dragging the dinghy by herself) so damn fast I couldn't keep up with her, even without being burdened by the dinghy! I was supposed to be pushing, but she just took off! It was quite an effort.

We learned from our experience and the next day when we went ashore (at high tide), Bryce waded Dingbat out as far as he could to tie her to one of the jetty pylons so that when we left later, we wouldn't have as far to drag her. As he was swimming back in through the beautiful, crystal clear waters, a big stingray zoomed underneath him. 

Oh the adventures we have!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Northern Sandy Straights

So when I said we headed off out into the world... We didn't go far. After a week of dawn to dusk manual labour, we were exhausted and the boat was a mess. We anchored just outside the harbor in the protection of Round Island and were soon asleep. 
We had been warned about dragging our anchor in this particular location and we did drag a small amount when we set the anchor but that’s why we set it! Otherwise no problems. We woke early the next morning eager to get back on our way and were able to restore order to the boat fairly quickly. We were distracted only a little bit by a preview for the final round of the Australian Offshore Superboat Championship in Torquay that weekend. 

We had seen the boats preparing for it all week right next to the boat yard so it was pretty cool to see them in action. Our pictures really don't do it justice but it was pretty incredible! Ignoring the fact that this is clearly a promotional thing, this video is the best I could find that really shows how cool it actually was!

And then we were off, headed to Sandy Point. On our way, we were surrounded by flocks of birds feeding. Bryce hasn’t had much luck fishing so this seemed almost too good to be true. We turned off the engine and and just drifted for awhile with the fish and birds, trying our luck. We didn’t catch anything. 

This week at Sandy point was our “vacation.” We still did little things around the boat as it never completely stops but it was break after the intensity of the week prior. We had a lovely week, exploring Fraser island, walking on the beach, crabbing, fishing, reading and just overall relaxing. We found these interesting sand piles on the dune that was only exposed at low tide. We hypothesized that they were from some sort of crab.  There was so many jelly fish constantly washed up on the beach and a rather nasty smell coming from one end of it. There were a couple of spectacular storms that came up over the Harvey Bay area that we had a great view of. 

Our time there also fell during the lowest tides of the month. This was only a problem when during one windy and stormy night, we started to bump the bottom at the low tide. We solved this for the short term by pulling in a tiny bit of our anchor chain until we got some of our water back and then letting it back out again. We didn't get much sleep... The next day we moved over into some deeper water but as the tides continued to get shallower and shallowed, continued to pull in some chain at each low, just in case. 

We left Sandy Point early one morning to head back back to Riverheads to resupply and run some errands before starting our journey south again. The tide was strong and we were early so instead of going against the tide, we decided to stop and spend the day at Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island before crossing over to Riverheads with the tide helping us across later that afternoon. The resort has wonderful with free facilities for day visitors that include a pool, restaurant and showers. There are two more pools and more restaurants up at the actual resort and we were “instructed” by some locals to definitely head up there and check them out. We were luckily able to join in on a tour of the local bush tucker. We learned all about the Butchalla people and the plants that they ate and used in their daily life. One of the customs we were told about was a coming of age tradition for the young girls in the tribe. In order to become a woman, they had to successfully rinse clean a poisonous plant and turn it into a meal that they had to feed to the older women in their family. If they were successful, noone was poisoned. If they failed, someone died. Nothing like a little pressure! After a swim and a shower, it was time to head back to the boat and this is where things got really interesting!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

On the hard... again!

So, we are well aware that this is now our third time on the hard this year. To help ourselves feel better about it, we rationalise that coming out in April was routine maintenance. Coming out in June was to repair some damages done in April and we didn’t have to pay for the haul-out or the repairs. So coming out this time is hopefully going to fix the engine problems that have plagued us since we joined forces with Batty. We were hoping to come out on Friday so that we could have the weekend to drop the propeller shaft and do prep for the other work we planned to do while we were out. The yards schedule was a bit hectic but they did get us out on Friday and we are so thankful. 

This combined with the kindness everyone showed helping to de-ground us, was just the start of a wonderful series of kindnesses that we encountered being here. The boat yard is attached to the marina and this was our first experience of marina life. Everyone was just so kind and open to sharing their knowledge, tools, boats, and cars. The guys at the yard put up with my endless questions about painting and helped when I was terrified to use a powertool on the hull. Partly due to our use of kneepads (a wonderful thing!), we were affectionately referred to a yachties during our time there. We were out of the water for a week and the kindness and friendliness that we experience here was definitely one of the highlights.

We had a busy week. Having just redone the antifouling in April, we didn’t need to do the whole lot again but had some extra paint so redid the leading edges and waterline. We removed some bolts that had been through the back of the hull (above the waterline) and had the holes welded shut. We also had an anode welded onto the rudder.

Dingbat’s paint job was crap and is constantly flaking off on deck and getting caught under our fingernails. We wanted it gone so I went at it with the wire wheel on the angle grinder. I spent days on her and she still isn’t done. The parts that were flaking the worst are gone but she is now uglier than ever which hopefully works in her and our favor, hopefully making her a less likely target of theft. 

The big news though is that our engine is fixed! The clanging noise that was constantly there is gone! We are so excited. Our current engine is on flexible mounts so that it can wiggle around a bit while it’s running. Because of this the prop shaft needs to be able to move around relatively freely with one bearing distal to the engine. Our hypothesis is that the previous engine that the boat had was on rigid mounts and so had two extra bearings around the prop shaft proximal to the engine to keep it in place. When the engine was replaced, the old bearings weren’t removed and a new one was put in as well. So we discovered three bearings in there when we took it apart, which is what the prop shaft had been banging against. We removed the two extra and Voila... No noise!
Inside the propeller shaft
Bryce did most of the work, under the guidance of an awesome mechanic. I was the trusty assistant as needed. We were all ready to go back in the water on Thursday afternoon, when the mechanic came to check over Bryce’s work and told him that some screws weren’t tight enough. In trying to fix this, everything was thrown off and made it it tricky so we ended up staying out another night. It ended up not being such a big deal but the awesome mechanic showed up at 6 am the next morning to reassure us and the only payment he wanted was a follow-up phone call, letting him know how it all worked out! Another example of the niceness that we experienced! 

As we were lowered back down into the water, everyone held their breath as Bryce put on the engine and put her through her paces as much as he could while we were still in the slings! The difference was noticeable to everyone immediately! We spent a couple of hours at the work dock reattaching the jib furler, which needed to come down in order for us to fit in the boat lift and then we headed off out into the world.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Cutting the cord... sailing on our own!

After we returned from our quick trip to Brisbane, we were exhausted and went straight asleep. The following day was spent putting away all of our nice machine cleaned laundry and newly procured groceries in preparation for us to leave following day. We were very keen to get out of River Heads as we (mostly I) were being attacked by Sandflys. There were many sleepless and scratchy night resulting. While we were in Brisbane, I had gone to the doctor to get some stronger antihistamines and creams and he said me (before giving me what I wanted) "My advice to you would be to avoid being bitten in the first place.” Thanks dude. Armed with these drugs I wasn’t as scared but we were still pretty keen to get moving.