Friday, October 31, 2014

Airlie Again

So this is definitely a sign of how far behind I am with posting but... Happy Halloween! I did briefly contemplate how we could dress Batty up for the occasion but it all seemed too hard! I did come up with the coolest idea after the fact, so look forward to next year! So no costumes, instead we will be celebrating with pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin soup!

From Cid Harbour, we headed back to Airlie Beach. It's getting to the point in the season where we needed to start heading to our safe harbor to hide from the cyclones. When we left several months ago, it had been our intention to take Batty back down to Brisbane for the summer and get some work done on her there. But certain people (our friends!) turned out to be very persuasive and we decided to keep the boat at the marina on Magnetic Island, a small island off the coast of Townsville. If a cyclone does strike in the area, there is still a risk that we may suffer damage but the marina has a good track record of surviving such blows and we will be with Batty to help her through it for most of the time. Fingers crossed for a relaxed cyclone season. I HATE dislike, very strongly (with a passion) backtracking, so was particularly thrilled with this decision. We still have some travel planned to various parts of the country over the time period we will be in the marina but hopefully we will still be able to get everything we need to done as we prep to *drum-roll* actually leave Australia next year.

So we hung out in Airlie Beach for a bit. At the suggestion of another cruiser, we tried out a new-to-us anchoring spot. It was right next to the channel into the marina so we were subject to some pretty phenomenal wake as powerboats came flying out, so after one night of that we moved. We were waiting for the wind to change to something more favorable for getting us north but we were also waiting for a friend to arrive so that we could give him a ride out to his boat and save him the swim. It was a bit traumatic when Bryce dropped him to his boat and they found that it was covered in prolific amounts of birdpoo. After a lot of cleaning, their boat looks great!

Aquabat had been moving a bit slow so we had someone dive on the hull to clean it. It's so amazing what a difference this made. Batty now cuts through the water like a knife! This will be a job that we need to do semi-regularly ourselves but we haven't quite yet figured out a system for doing it. It's on the to-do list.

The steering system had been making noises and since steering is pretty important so we wanted to figure out what the noises were ASAP. We also had a problem with an actuator cable that disables the hydraulic steering (the wheel) so we can hand steer with our emergency tiller (stick that attaches directly to the top of the rudder post). To investigate these problems we had to go "down in the hole." "The Hole" aka our lazarette, is the home of our rudder post, the hydraulic steering and our lines, fenders and hoses. I have to go down there semi-regularly to grease the rudder. Due to his size and lack of flexibility, Bryce is an infrequent visitor. Unfortunately for him when there is something I am unable to do or don't have any clue how to do, he has to head down there. The actuator cable had seized in place holding the hydraulic bypass valve partially open. Bryce disconnected the actuator and manually closed the valve and most of the noise went away. So we will keep the actuator closed in its proper position and if we need to disengage the hydraulic steering, we will need to head down there and open it. Our emergency tiller, which also lives down there, will need to be brought up and put into service in this instance.

So that's what we are up to. We will probably continue our journey north in the next few days.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cid Harbour

We had gorgeous weather leaving Nara Inlet and had every intention of sailing out but... there's always a but! But as we put out the jib we discovered that the furler was broken again. We pulled into a little bay, dropped the anchor and set about fixing it. Now the good news is that we did figure out what was causing the problem. When we bought the boat we replaced the existing anchor for a bigger one. When we raise or lower the bigger anchor, sometimes, as careful as we are to avoid it, the anchor hits the furler, knocking it out of alignment and causing it to cease functioning. Anyway, having already fixed it once, this time it was a piece of cake! When we were ready to go again, I volunteered to take the helm so that Bryce could work on finding a way for the anchor to not hit the furler. Now putting the anchor down and pulling it up are "my jobs" and while I'm quite happy at the helm out in the big blue where there is nothing to hit, maneuvering the boat whilst surrounded by coral reefs and other boats is not really something I've ever volunteered for. It all went fine, I didn't hit anything and I suppose, practice will make perfect.

So while of course we came over to Cid Harbour to enjoy Cid Harbour, we also came here because we thought (and had been told) we would be protected and have Internet access. We had reception across our entire sail so imagine our surprise after we set the anchor that we had none.  Now I'm realising that it may sound a bit like we are obsessed with being connected but that is not the case. It's just nice to be able to check email every once in awhile and communicate with friends and family, so it was no real big that we didn't have a consistent connection because when the boat was pointing in a certain direction and you held the phone at a specific angle, we were able to get emails in and out. Easy!

Cid Harbour itself is a gorgeous place but for me the highlight was the walks it offers. There are two walks from Sawmill Beach, one around to another beach and one all the way to the top of Whitsunday Peak. The walk up was switchback stairs most of the way and was brutal but the view at the top made it all worth while. 360 degrees of Whitsunday islands! Just stunning. Well worth the walk up!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nara Inlet

When we finally left Airlie, it was because the weather was forcing us out. The wind was changing and Airlie would've become untenable as an anchorage. So we headed on over to Nara Inlet. Well that was the plan anyway. Just outside Nara Inlet is a little bay called False Nara (Looks like Nara but it's not). There was a free mooring ball so we picked it up and spent a rolly night there. The next morning with the wind picking up, we headed around the corner into Nara Inlet. 
Fjord-like Nara Inlet with many boats in the distance
As we were pulling in we could see that there was a substantial quantity of boats already anchored and over the course of the night boats continued to pile in as the wind picked up and made all nearby anchorages miserable and possibly dangerous. There were easily 100 boats piled in there. At night when everyone had their mast and boat lights on, it lit up like a city. We heard from some local boaters that this was the most boats they had even seen in Nara Inlet. They themselves had moved in because nearby Cid Harbour, another popular anchorage, was getting a 2 metre swell. Not fun! These same people also had a still on board their boat and made some of the most delicious rum I've ever tasted and we met them when they came over to tell us that they had seen an 8-10 metre shark jump out of the water not far from our boat the previous night. They were my friends for many reasons!

Nara's resident & unfortunately tame cockatoo

Nara Inlet has a trail that leads up to an aboriginal cave with paintings in it. There are tons of other caves in the area and if you keep your eyes open, you might see a window here or there.  Up at the main cave there are informational boards and voice recordings of aboriginal stories.
Aboriginal Cave
One cool tidbit of information that I took from there was that the native Ngaro people referred to themselves as Good-dig-a-goori (spelled phonetically), which means salt-water people and that is what we are. Good-dig-a-goori. There was no reception at Nara unless we went up to the top of the hill and even then it was a rather frustrating connection holding phones and laptops as high as we could above our heads so we embraced the chance to disconnect and relaxed.


Monday, October 13, 2014

The Land Trap

After Nannie left us at Airlie Beach, we quickly adjusted to life in town. After so long away from shops, water, rubbish disposal, internet and phone service, it was nice to have them all on hand. Airlie in itself is a lovely small town, very touristy and definitely catering to backpackers and holidayers. There is a swimming lagoon set up on the waterfront which was a refreshing and relaxing place to spend some time. The weekend markets have a great selection of fresh fruit and veg with a wonderful atmosphere. The one downside of Airlie from a boating perspective is that it is quite a rolly anchorage. At least it was consistent though so we adjusted to it relatively quickly.

While we were in Airlie some old family friends of Bryce's were going to be holidaying at their beach house back up near Glouchester Island. The invited us to come and stay with them for the weekend and even came and picked us up in Airlie. It's amazing how much faster you can get somewhere driving! But at least the wind is free! we had a lovely, relaxing, family-filled weekend (with real showers and beds!) that was just what we needed. We are so grateful to them for sharing their holiday with us.
"Small" fire in Airlie that was thankfully quickly contained
One activity that occupied an entire day for us was cheesmaking. Last year for christmas, Bryce had been given a cheesemaking kit. We had gone to use it once before only to find that you couldn't make cheese from UHT or powdered milk. So when we found organic full-cream  milk 50% off at the local woolies we jumped at the chance and it was fun. We ended up with a small amount of ricotta, a medium amount of mozzarella and a gigantic ton of whey. In an effort to use all the whey up, Bryce tried to make oatmeal with it (not delcious) and I tried to make pancakes with it (delicious). In the words of Bryce from whom compliments are treasured, they were the best pancakes he'd ever had. Bryce looked up what else could be done with whey and found a suggestion to mix warm, fresh whey, rum, honey and lime juice. It was a bit like a hot toddy with little chunks of cheese in it (surprisingly delcious apparently!). So thank you cheesemaking gift giver - you know who you are! It was fun and we look forward to doing it again! :)
The cheesemaking results
When we finally broke out of the clutches of Airlie and everything it had to offer, we had some mild growth on our anchor chain which was a sure sign that we needed to move on.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Grandmother on Board

My Nannie lives in Northern Queensland, so when I first told her last year that we were heading this was she said that she would come and see us. When I asked if she would like to stay on the boat, she said "well yes, I think I would." The first time we had this conversation I probably didn't even really know myself what living on the boat entailed but here she was 80 years old and ready to give it a go. So when we did <finally> make it up here, we gave her a call and a few days later she was on board Batty. We met up with her in Bowen and spent the night on the public jetty just to ease her into it and from there Nannie got the good, the bad and the ugly.

Our first day sailing was, of course, not as forecasted. So after we left Bowen we ended up cris-crossing around the bay as we beat to windward. For non-sailors, a sailboat cannot sail directly into the wind. So in order to sail in that, you need to sail just off the wind in one direction, then tack and sail just off the wind in the other direction and repeat, ad nauseum. Sailing close to the wind like that causes the boat to heel over (tip) substantially so it is not a very fun way to travel and best to avoid if possible. Unfortunately, there wasn't really anywhere nearby that we thought we offer us protection so we stuck with it. Not far into this fun game, we went to put the jib (front sail) down and discovered that our furler was broken. Sorry for using so much sailing technology but bear with me... I hope it's interesting! :) The furler allows us to control the jib from the cockpit as it roll up inside itself on the forestay for storage (the wire at the front of the boat that runs up to the top of the mast and supports it) and comes unwound when we use it. The alternative is one or both of us needing to go up on the foredeck (the front of the boat) to put it up or down manually. It's an amazing system... when it works!

So... instead of continuing our trip across to Gloucester Island, we ended up doing a circle around Stone Island, just off Bowen.

I think Nannie was blissfully unaware that as the sun was setting after sailing all day, we ended up just a couple of miles from where we started. She was just enjoying the ride... though she did comment that she could feel that it was a bit stressful at times.  We were hoping for better winds the following day so we could cross the bay without needing the jib. It was unfortunately more beating to windward but it was made bearable by the staysail (a smaller sail up the front of the boat) and we made it. We arrived at Bona Bay with enough sunlight left to stretch our legs on the beach. The following morning Bryce was up on the foredeck trying to fix the furler when a nice man, Peter, popped over to say hello. Turns out he was a boat builder and wanted to help Bryce fix the furler! Cruisers are such nice folk! It wasn't as bad as Bryce initially thought and Peter saved him (us?) much angst by helping with the repair.

From Bona Bay we headed around the corner to Breakfast Bay to wait for a window to head out to the islands. We had three days of little to no wind, the water perfectly still.  One day we tried to make a run for it, thinking that there might be some wind out there hiding on the other side of the mountain but we turned back disappointed. As it was so flat, I was finally able to convince Nannie to come up on the foredeck to explain how the anchor worked as we pulled it up. Thankfully there was no wind at all because just as we had the anchor in sight, the chain jumped off the windlass (the machine that saves our poor arms by pulling up the anchor for us) and the chain started running out freely. Just a little excitement to keep us on our toes! All was OK! It always is!

Doing Laundry... We put her to work!
When we were finally able to leave we had a gorgeous morning sailing and then the wind changed. We reevaluated and changed directions to head up to Double Cone Island. When we got there, it appeared as that staying there would've made for a rather un-enjoyable night so we hightailed it across to anchor at Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island again.
There are many resorts in the Whitsundays and Hayman Island Resort is one of them. There resorts that are situated on islands that are National Parks can not restrict use of their hiking trail by non-resort guests. Hayman Island is not in fact a national park but we got a bit confused thinking it was and so had a lovely hike up to the resort and saw tons of wallabies (Sorry, resort management). Blue Pearl Bay is just magnificent. Stunningly crystal blue water that is so deep all you can see is the parrot fish swimming underneath the boat.

Hayman Island
Despite the fact that we had had mostly miserable sailing weather, we had been blessed with calm and comfortable anchorages while Nannie was with us. Blue Pearl was mildly rolly while we were there and then when we headed over to Airlie Beach, we had a bit more rolliness (this may not be a word but you catch my drift). Nannie took it all in stride as she enjoyed being rocked to sleep by the boat. Over the course of the week she was with us, Nannie found that all of her aches and pains went away. She was able to crawl into her bunk and maneuver around in it without any problems and was able to really relax. We absolutely loved having her on board. I'm so proud and in awe of her to have so eagerly jumped on board (literally!) this adventure.