Monday, December 3, 2007

Mackay Marina to Port Clinton
Sixteen days in the Mackay Marina, we saw lots of rain, Strong SE winds everyday caused by the cyclone up North and finally the Mackay Weather forecast was East by Northeast winds for the next couple days before another low comes through….The marina was a buzz of activity as everyone seemed to be sailing South the following morning…We had made many new friends on the W row of the catamaran berths. Hiroko’s birthday party two nights before was attended by Peter and Ruth of “AS If” ; Lightwave 35ft Catamaran & Warren and Glenda of “Catamaran Imagine” and Christian and Gina of “Caesura” a NZ monohull (who we know from the Garden Point mooring in Brisbane)…
Thursday Nov 22nd I was up well before first light, I can’t sleep when I get excited and I knew it would be a big day….at about 5:00am boats of all sizes and shapes were heading out of the marina…as Areté left the calm waters of the marina out around the breakwater putting the red beacon off our starboard beam and pointing Areté into the wind causing Areté bows to pitch up and down and the stern to do a curtsy to King Neptune, we are now underway….The early mornings often find light winds as we weaved through the 60 or so cargo ships anchored off Hay Point waiting to load up with coal and sail to ports the world over…When the winds did come up they were SE by East, hard on the nose, we motor sailed just off the wind not able to make much speed with the flooding tide, a running ocean swell leftover from the strong winds of the previous days…We eventually got to Digby Island at 7:30pm that evening…56 nautical miles and none of them easy…We had used a lot more fuel than I’d anticipated …I felt tired and a little dejected.
We had the anchor up and we were away at 5:00am the following morning, the winds calmed down during the night so we had glassy seas…which also means no wind so we motored along at 4 knots alternating motors trying to conserve fuel…the afternoon brought an Easterly sea~breeze I sheeted the headsail back as tight as I could get it, sailing “close hauled” we were able to make a little over 4 knots turning off the motors, we plodded along all day arriving at Hexam Island just 42 miles, at 5:00pm…Now feeling a bit more dejected as the winds haven’t been Northerly at all, a quick check of the fuel tanks this only makes me feel more helpless, there is no place to get fuel between Mackay and Yeppoon…the bright spot is I know the other yacht in the anchorage a Bavaria 38ft sloop, Greg called on the radio and invited us to follow him out at 3:30am…
There are a few rock islands around this anchorage which cause considerable tidal irregularities on the full flooding tides…3:30am was slack tide…
So day three out of Mackay started at 3:00am the moon was just setting when we got up and it was very dark soon after,…following Greg’s running lights we safely cleared the rock outcroppings, set sails and waited for the sunrise…again light Easterly winds saw us sailing close hauled tight on the wind and with the flooding tide coming out of “Strong Tide Pass” near Cape Townshend we were doing 1 knot over the land though sailing along at 4~5 knots…with one motor running…ahhhh we tried two tacks and four hours later were nearly in the same spot…of course the tides change every 6 hours so by mid day things were progressing much better,… the weather forecast was for 20knots of afternoon seabreeze so we knew the full moon was just a night away, so the moon would be up before sunset and we decided to push on another 40 or 50 miles to reach the Keppel Islands before the low comes through bringing strong SE winds for who knows how many days. This would make our longest day yet well over 100 miles, expecting to sail into the moonlight arriving about 10:00pm with nearly a full moon…
“Without risk, there is no adventure” as Sir Chay Blyth once said …A few miles North of Cape Manifold I was noticing the strong tidal pull, and trying to just pinch it enough to get around the cape and after that the wind angle would be much better to sail close reached to the Kepples…Right about then a SE change came roaring through at well over 30 knots and we got belted hard!!! Pulling Areté straight into the wind (Irons) , sails flapping like crazy, no steering, the seas became real steep and sloppy immediately , we dropped the motors, furled in the headsail just before it beat itself to death, got the mainsail down and turned around heading back to the safe anchorage of Port Clinton…The two yachts just ahead of us made the same decision and soon many boats were headed into the only anchorage open in the Shoalwater Bay Military training area…They were having some kind of live firing drills and all other anchorages were closed to private vessels. That night at anchor in Port Clinton (it sounds like it’s some port but it’s just a huge estuary system of mudflats, mangroves, a couple beaches, no development what so ever)
I watched the moon rise and came up with a great idea…Tomorrow was the full moon and most of those boats were headed south like us and we all might be here for a few days waiting on a weather window…
Sunday November 25th, I woke up with a plan, I grabbed a bunch of Areté boat cards and wrote “Full Moon Party on Areté..” Then launched the dingy and went around and invited everyone to join us for sundowners and watch the moon rise on Areté, I also said if they wanted to dress up like pirates they would not be the only ones as Hiroko and I are Peace Pirates…
That evening saw six dingys tied behind Areté, 11 people, from 6 different yachts, all different walks of life, 6 different countries but all of them deep down were pirates too!
Two guitar players provided the Jimmy Buffet songs and as the moon rose we sang
“A pirate looks at 50” …”Yes, I am a pirate,… two hundred years too late,… the cannons don’t thunder,… there’s nothing to plunder,… I’m an over forty victim of fate”
The party was a smashing success; we made 9 new friends and felt it was one of my best days!!! ( to see party photos, scroll down past all the text at bottom of page...)

Monday November 26th The wind was blowing hard from the SE when I woke up feeling like Tarzan after such a great evening…Enjoying an evening like that, getting to meet people and entertain on my yacht was a big part of the desire to move to Australia and buy a catamaran…’Cause those were the kind of people we came here to meet…
That evening Alan and Mary invited us for sundowners aboard “Investigator” their 56 foot Crouther catamaran…Alan is a shipwright and spent his working years building boats and the Investigator П must be one of the nicest catamarans in Australia. It had everything you could imagine, pure class just like the owners…Joining us onboard that evening was John and Gale from “Crystal Voyager” a 36ft Roberts monohull, and Allan Hays of the 30ft monohull “Dolphina” He’d sailed over from NZ a few months ago in a single hander race with 20 other yachts…Another great evening of sailing stories and boat talk…It’s often said “it’s not the destination but the journey that you remember” but it’s the people you meet that make it truly magic…Another highlight of the day was the weather report that a North/Easterly breeze was headed this way in a couple days...Yahooo!
Tuesday November 27th (Day #4 at Port Clinton) The Rockhampton Meteorological Agency read the weather at 5:20am saying 20 knot SE winds but Thursday the northerly should come through…that afternoon we were invited over to the “Crystal Voyager” to see how they get internet access even at Port Clinton..(the middle of nowhere, about 50 miles from civilization, as the crow flies) John and Gale are transplanted New Zealanders now Aussies and have just finished four years in Airlie Beach of the Whitsundays. John had 10 liters of unleaded fuel he could spare so we traded for a bottle of Bundaberg Rum and I threw in a 1.5ltr bottle of Areté Ginger Beer to sweeten the deal…They were pleased with the deal and the added 10 liters of fuel would give us much more confidence as our fuel was now very low…That evening I caught and released a Shovelnose Shark…I don’t eat sharks and hope they will show me the same respect…well that’s the idea anyways..
Wednesday November 28th was the fifth and final day in Port Clinton, (now my favorite place we’ve been!!) Late in the afternoon three catamarans arrived I knew two of them one from the Duck Pond in Townsville and Craig off the Easy Catamaran “CasaraCruzin” helping a friend sail his Perry 43 back to the Gold Coast. We’d met Craig and his wife Sara on our first trip North two years ago and have seem them in many different places between here and Brisbane, both on and off the water..

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