Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hanging with the Humpbacks/The Bunker Group of the G.B.R.

Hanging with the Humpbacks / The Bunker Group of The Great Barrier Reef.

An inconvenient truth, or is it a climate change?…. Light Westerly winds are strange for this time of year in Queensland…we made use of them to enjoy three days out in Platypus Bay; August 2,3,4th . This is a hangout to many migrating Humpback Whales…Hervey Bay has a huge whale watching industry taking tourists out on tours…We had Whales, Whales, Whales…
They seem to take an interest in The Areté though it is much less interest than we had in them, they did come over and check us out and gave us a chance to do the same to them….Three different anchorages along Fraser Island watching whales, and waiting on a favorable wind to blow us up to Bundaberg 47 nautical miles to the North…
Sunday August 5th;
The winds finally increased, mostly from the West so we enjoyed a great sail a bit bumpy and lots of spray as we were sailing slightly into the wind on a broad reach…
A night in the Port of Bundaberg Marina gave us a chance to wash clothes and a hot land shower...(Very Important to Hiroko!) We’ve been in touch with Ian on Mingles (his first trip sailing North, single~handing a 32ft monohull he bought at the Garden Point Moorings in Brisbane earlier this year..) We were going to meet up at The Tree Bar in the Town of 1770…
Monday August 6th. Leaving Bundaberg at first light we finally got the good wind and Areté was running downwind, wind coming over the rear quarter, just what we wanted…7~ 8 knots, a nice easy motion, you need about this speed to catch Tuna… trolling the pink squid….My phone rings it’s Ian and he’s in Bundaberg Marina. (where we just left and I’m not turning around into this wind for nothing…) He’s had enough of sailing by himself and decided to head back to Brisbane…soon after the phone call….Bang ! ZZZiiiiiinnnngggggg, the Penn Reel on the port side screamed out “FISH ON” !!! On goes the gimble belt and the fight is on…I start to tell Hiroko to dump off some of the main sail or bear away from the wind to slow the boat down a bit or I have no chance of bringing this fish in at 8 knots…Bang!!! Zzzziiiinnnnngggg the other reel is screaming now….Hiroko grabs the rod and tries to adjust the drag…. “tighten up that big star by the handle… No not the free spool lever” !!! O~shit !!!
….Now I’ve nearly got my fish to the Port swim step and Hiroko has a birds nest, backlashed, mess on the other Penn Reel with a Tuna on…???
Soon my fish was aboard, my arms were burning so I put the gimbal belt on Hiroko got rid of some of the backlash mess on the reel as best I could, just started rolling the line over the top of it, I’ll deal with that later…
Handed off the rod to Hiroko and she brought in her first fish ever…Then with a beautiful Tuna at the back of the boat she learned a classic lesson about “just a bit of slack in the line and he spit the hook and swam free” O~well we’ll still have the freshest sushi ever tonight…one fish is more than enough for the two of us.
The boat still screaming along at 8+ knots, about 8:00am Hiroko on the foredeck with the Houcho (special Japanese knife) cleaning Tuna….Who knows the future... a few hours later it was sunny much warmer and the wind came down so Areté was cruising along at 5 knots and slicing up the Tuna would have been easy like Sunday morning…around lunch time we put up the Spinnaker Sail in light winds. Up and around Round Hill into the Town of 1770…The place where Captain Cook first came ashore in Queensland (Not sure when?)… Now home of the Tree Bar…a caravan park, and small store that has a gas pump… 40 liters of unleaded gas and 60 liters of water and we were ready to cruise out to the Bunker Group of The Great Barrier Reef first thing in the morning.
Tuesday August 7th. The weather forecast was 20 knots out of the South/West followed by three days of calm weather (all weather forecasts are 4 days only). I thought we’d have plenty of wind to get us out to Lady Musgrave Island 36 miles offshore and a couple days of light winds to enjoy the perfect coral lagoon, coral cay (island) and the Great Barrier Reef…We had at least 20 knots of breeze, lots of spray and cloudy but “ a great sail out to the reef, and that’s what it’s all about!” I didn’t even put the line out as we had fish aboard already…
We had the anchor down in sand, 27 feet below Areté in crystal clear water, by 1:00pm…YaaaHoooo!!!! Hiroko had a fever, she thought it might be the flu as it is the winter flu season here in OZ and we’ve just had three days of sailing hard, fast and most of it in wet & windy conditions… About sunset, at high tide, now the reef is underwater and you are 36 miles offshore, Areté is tugging hard on its anchor chain, wind whipping through the rigging, halyards clanging against the mast. I’ve got all the chain out hoping nothing drags or wraps around a coral head, moving after dark is not anything I want to be a part of…It’s hard enough to navigate around the coral in broad daylight…
In the following two days Hiroko’s health improved and the winds came down. Three days in the lagoon, chilling out reading books and strumming the guitar….

Navigating the Great Barrier Reef with its many dangers; reefs, shoals, coral cays and islands is quite a challenge. I put lots of waypoints into my GPS system and reviewed the cruising guides and nautical charts of the area many times.
Friday August 10th.
Leaving the Lady Musgrave lagoon, out through the red and green beacons heading North by East sailing between Lady Musgrave Island and Fairfax Island’s outer reef. Then North putting Boult Reef and Llewellen Reef on our starboard side, 27 miles past sunken ships who came to grief on the reefs before the days of the GPS we reached the outer most point of Fitzroy Reef. Working our way cautiously along the reef till we found the entry into the lagoon. I’d planned on arriving on an incoming tide as tidal flow on strong ebbing tides cause crazy currents and overfalls making the entrance dangerous. It looked impossible or impassable actually till we got around behind it and then it lined up with the Red and Green cans floating marking the entrance followed by two more Reds and a Green beacons marking a winding narrow channel through the reef into the lagoon. A bit like the lagoon at Lady Musgrave without the island, but anchoring in sand with 25~30 feet of crystal clear blue water. A couple more days waiting on some wind to blow us up to Masthead Island at the Northern end of the Bunker Group.
We’ve had some days without a wisp of wind, the ocean is like glass and the clarity of the water unbelievable, we’ve been the only boat in this lagoon 40+ miles out to sea…Like a huge swimming pool…Taking our showers on the foredeck with the solar bag not another sole within 20 miles or more….With my new fancy radio I can pick up music stations so we’re rocking Triple J ( kind of like KDKB was back in the day, for you from AZ) and the ABC Classic (Australian Broadcasting Corp) classical music, as well as my favorites; Jack, Jimmy and Willy on CDs so life’s pretty damn good here at Fitzroy Reef on the Great Barrier Reef…

After three days of fun at Fitzroy Reef (August 10~11 &12th) we got a Southeasterly breeze and made it out between the reef without losing any fiberglass of our hulls…Sailing North to 23˚30’000; The Tropic of Capricorn.
Straddling the line is One Tree Island (off-limits, set aside for scientific research) Sykes Reef and Heron Island (having a resort and not welcoming visitors from cruising yachts)….Somewhere in the middle of these reefs were a group of Humpback Whales doing some amazing aerial jumps or breeching… Just showing off… We loved it ! We dropped the main sail and sailed on with just the headsail, giving us more maneuverability just a little slower, the only boat we saw the entire day was ours…Around 3:00pm was low tide making it very clear where the reef ends and sandy pockets were, we anchored behind Masthead Island, a typical coral cay with a huge lagoon (see photo). Around sunset I watched some Black Tip Reef Sharks working the incoming tide, an awesome sight to see, nature is cruel but entertaining.
Early the following morning (August 13th.) we had few problems getting our anchor back aboard, and we sailed North by East crossing into the tropics above 23˚30’000, saying goodbye to the Great Barrier Reef for a few weeks. Sailing in 20 knots of wind downwind with just a headsail, listening to the radio real loud, singing along didn’t see another boat till 2:00pm. We anchored behind Hammocky Island a huge rock sticking up out of the sea. Last night was the new moon so we had a big tide of over 4 meters. This leaving a lot of rock exposed at low tide, Hiroko went ashore to collect fresh oysters, she had 13 nice oysters off the rocks and a huge smile when she returned.
The next day (August 15th) we were back in cell phone range anchored right off the beach in front of a resort on Great Keppel Island, they welcome yachties! I bought the newspaper and read of Carl Rove ( “He’s as crooked as a moving snake”) giving up on Bush and the stock market crash. After 9 days offshore we needed to do some grocery shopping so we sailed across Keppel Bay to Yeppon, hoping to anchor off the beach near the center of town but with more East than Southeast in the swell it was too rough to get the inflatable dingy ashore..? Hiroko’s first thoughts were “Yahooo a marina berth tonight”!!! We saw a nice catamaran on anchor behind the wall at Rosslyn Bay Marina, as soon as we’d got the anchor dug in, the guy is on his way over in his dingy….He say’s his name is Hans and he’s going to the supermarket in his car, “Do you need a ride?” Hiroko was off the boat in two minutes flat! Cool guy, great boat, check out his website;
www.funtasticcruises.com She got the food I went to the fuel wharf in the marina; 40 liters of unleaded and 70 liters of water. We should be good till we reach Mackay at the end of the month…? What a lucky day, it was a Thursday of course…

August 17th Friday, after the 6:40am weather report, Rocky Met, Channel 82 VHF we weighed anchor and hoisted the main sail pointed the bow North and unfurled the headsail. The sun was out the wind was coming over the rear quarter a 1~2 meter swell giving Areté a nice run up the coast, up and around Cape Manifold and back around behind some big jagged rocks was our anchorage called Freshwater Bay.(See Photo, “Eagle Rock”) As pretty as a postcard, a nice white sand beach, majestic rock headland with heavily forested mountains, and a couple of islands. The only boat in the bay, dolphins swimming around Areté as I watched the White Breasted Sea Eagles catch dinner. With the binoculars I found the nest atop a jagged peak connecting the mainland to a couple small islands. Later around sunset I also saw two Osprey and a Brahminy Kite circling in the wind… The radio played “Doing The Eagle Rock” and we danced in the cockpit, it was a fine Aloha Friday aboard Areté … Since Hiroko had been shopping the day before I knew we’d be eating well. She made “Oyakao Jaga” the chicken before the egg with potatoes for dinner.
The weather report the following morning explained a front was moving into the Australia bite causing wind to increase to 20~25+ knots from the Southeast so we sailed North 27 nautical miles to Island Head Creek. We arrived at the entrance just as the wind was really starting to howl. White caps with cat’s paws and the spray that stings…. This is a huge estuary system with secure anchorages, just the place to wait out the strong wind warning and catch up on my reading…Sunday August 19th, was drizzly rain, a very windy day but Gary from “Spot On” a powerboat brought over 4 Mackerel filets. He’s got one of those flybridge cruisers, some people call them Marlin Boats I just use the term “stink boat” but fresh fish is fresh fish…There are two other boats anchored in our beautiful cove one is a monohull ketch and “Spot On”. Mackerel is “Saba” in Japanese and Hiroko cooks it very well. I spent most of the day tinkering with Areté and making up some trolling rigs, drinking tea and reading Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim

17 comments:

craig&evvy said...

Hi Jay and Hiroko -

Thanks for the great dinner and company back here in MacKay. We've been pretty full-on preparing to sell our boat Maia, pack up our lives, and to leave our boat. We're coming to Airlie today, and will be there for three days, so perhaps we'll find you there.

My user name at yahoo.com is castellanet (written this way to avoid spam bots).

Fair winds and following seas,

Craig and Evvy

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