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Gold Coast to Darwin


posted Jul 5, 2011, 8:23 PM by Sue Norris   [ updated Feb 2, 2012, 8:50 PM ]

 Darwin Sailing Club at Fannie Bay. Great place good facilities . . .We are anchored about  1 nm from beach.

Across the Top

posted Jul 5, 2011, 8:23 PM by Sue Norris   [ updated May 15, 2014, 11:23 PM ]

   8 weeks and a day and 2400nm after leaving the Gold Coast we arrived in Darwin

714 miles in 7 days!!

Our longest single legs so far - Booby island (Cape York) to Cape Wessel – 304 miles without changing course

 Cape Wesssel to Cape Don 218 miles

We left Seisia on the same day as 5 other yachts, after a week of strong wind and it was very comforting that we were in radio contact the whole way. Twice a day we tuned in to our radio network and talked about the conditions, our positions, fishing etc. Most of the time we were within visual contact with at least one other yacht, sometimes more than one. We were the only Aussies in the group. Aussies are definitely in the minority on this rally.

2 nights at sea and just after sunset on the 3rd day we were anchored at Two Island Bay at Cape Wessel. By the time we arrived there were already 4 yachts anchored - our friends from the Gulf crossing. On the chart it looked like a tiny anchorage but it was huge. The whole Indonesian Rally fleet could anchor here comfortably and still have room to spare. By the time we woke up there were 6 yachts. We stayed a whole day here to recover and celebrate our achievement, visited, and went for a walk on the shore keeping a close lookout for crocodiles. They are a constant menace up here.

We left here after a good night's sleep to cross the Arafura Sea to Cape Don. This leg took us to Alcora Bay where we arrived late in the afternoon 2 days later, dropped the anchor and rested. There were a few yachts here too, and another 2 arrived after us. This is a quiet and sheltered spot, again much larger than on the chart, to wait for the right tide to get to Darwin more than 80 miles away. Get the tide wrong at your peril! In order to run with the tide we left at 0400 hours, four and a half hours before high tide in Darwin, with 3 other yachts. We were doing over 10 knots past Cape Don slowed down across Van Diemen Gulf ( tide against us) and then 10 knots again past the Vernon Islands where the channel narrows We did the 85 miles in 15 hours – not bad!! and arrived in Darwin just after sunset..within 1/4 hour of 2 of the others.

We were buzzed by Customs Coast watch aircraft only once before rounding Cape Wessel, but we heard them out there on and off for about 3 days.

The biggest danger we had was boredom. Everything was working well and we had little to do but read, check the horizon for other vessels and the instruments to make sure we were on track. Paolo (auto helm) did not miss a beat until we tried to transmit on the radio, then he stopped. Lupi spun around and we wondered what was going on, stopped, checked him out, and then returned to our course. Later that day he did it again, again while on the radio. We were worried now – what could it be? We hadn't heard of anyone having this problem. There seemed to be nothing wrong when we checked him out . . . Later we found out that some of the others have strange troubles when transmitting on HF radio – it wasn't just us Phew!!Apparently these things happen when there are not enough volts in the battery to power the auto helm and the radio, particularly when transmitting, so the auto helm lets go. We must have been sailing at the time. Now we know this we start the motor when using the HF radio.

The landscape here is very low and flat so different to what we are used to. There is a lot of smoke in the air too which creates magnificent sunsets but can be hazardous at times when it reduces visibility significantly.

Now we are in Darwin and need to get ready for our next adventure The Sail Indonesia Rally. There is lots to do! Organising visas, grocery shopping, spare parts shopping, meetings with organisers and gathering information preparing the boat, all from over a mile from shore. (see photo) We are glad of the 8 hp outboard, although it gets a bit wet going ashore when it is blowing 20 knots . . .

Portland Roads to the Top

posted Jun 21, 2011, 9:21 PM by Sue Norris   [ updated Oct 7, 2013, 7:37 PM ]

Portland Roads 61 miles

a beautiful sheltered spot. There are a few buildings on the shore. This is where aircraft left to fight the Battle of the Coral Sea in WW2.It would have been good to have had the time to go ashore and look around.

Margaret Bay 41 miles

Highlight of the sail here were whales breaching near the Paluma Passage at Cape Grenville.

Here there was extremely white sand, a sheltered anchorage deeper against the eastern wall. We walked across the headland to Indian Bay following "the blue trail" - a trail of blue bits and pieces, watching out for crocodiles (we saw their trails. . .) On the wilder ocean beach , Indian Bay, there was mountains of the same sort of rubbish we saw at Morris Island washed if from the Pacific Ocean. It was an amazing walk. The beach was lined with rows upon rows of coconut palms at the top of the beach, obviously they are washed up her and then germinate. We found a beauriful, perfect nautilus shell and some other flotsam and jetsom from the high tide mark which we carried back to the boat. We collected some of the blue bits to distribute along the pathway where it was indistinct. By the time we arrived back at the beach the tide had gone out and it was a long way to carry the dinghy. The day before, when someone else returned to their dinghy, there was a large crocodile between him and his dinghy which resulted in a 2 hour wait.

The next day there was something BIG lurking under the boat. Little fish were fluttering around the waterline like butterflies. A big dark shadow hid under the boat. Greg dropped a line and started fishing. He caught the best fish he'd ever caught, a small tuna or something similar on a very fine line so was reeling it in gently so that he did not lose it. Just as it was almost alongside something HUGE came out from under the boat and took the fish, hook, line and sinker... sideways...A swirl of water, brown leathery skin, an enormous eye and a fin like a pingpong paddle...gone in a second. And the “Thing” caught Greg's best fish. It was enormous. Was it a fish or a crocodile? We think that it was a giant grouper – didn't look right for a crocodile, although there was one in the bay that morning. There was definitely SOMETHING down there...

Mt Adolphus Island 90 miles

A midday departure put us on track to arrive at Cape York in daylight. This is the furtheset north we will go in Australia. It is only 6 miles from York Island at the Cape. We arrived at 6 in the morning for a couple of hours sleep. It was an uncomfortable night at sea so, again we didn't get much sleep. The sea state was uncomfortable and sloppy and the auto help kept on not coping. Something had stretched or moved and needed readjusting. So it was hand steering, noisy and uncomfortable. Neither of us slept well so we were glad to drop anchor at Mt Adolphus Island for a few hours.

The anchorage here is very quiet in south easterly wind and we rested before sailing on around the top of Australia. We wanted to do it refreshed and alert.

It was a gorgeous, breezy day and we were looking forward to clear visibility to pass Cape York. There is a fearsome current flowing past Cape York and we flew past at 10 knots, taking photos, comparing the headland to our book on light houses. We had now seen all the lighthouses on the East coast of Australia. and settled in for the afternoon sail into Seisia

Seisia 26 miles

We arrived at about 3 after rounding Cape York at 12:30. This was a major landmark for us. There were 7 other yachts here - most of which we had met heading up the Queensland coast - and a ship”Trinity Bay” transport to and from Cairns. It is quiet here, pretty but there are crocs here too. We wait here for the weather window to cross the Gulf of Carpentaria. A farewell picnic was held on the beach before 7 yachts left early the next day. We were not ready to leave then - we needed  to find another alternator and fit it.

Facilities: laundromat at the Caravan Park, garage and well stocked supermarket.

We like it here. We might be here a few days got to get the alternator fixed. Got to wait for weather window. . . Waited a week...some more yachts came in and waited too. Some left during the wind and had a shocking crossing of the gulf - we were glad we waited.

Seisia is the most northerly township on mainland Australia. It is literally the end of the road. Many 4WD vehicles are driven here each year and are left there. Others drive up and catch the ferry back, with their vehicles, to Cairns, or come up by boat and then drive back. It would be a great adventure!

Cairns to Morris Island

posted Jun 21, 2011, 9:15 PM by Sue Norris   [ updated Feb 3, 2012, 11:29 PM ]

2 weeks, 4 islands, 4 mainland anchorages, 2 towns . . .

coral reef snorkelling, mountain climbing, bushwalking, crocodiles, whales, repairing the boat in exotic places

Port Douglas 38 miles

Refuelled here at Fishermans marina at a fraction of the price that Marina Mirage were charging around the corner. Very sheltered anchorage upstream but full of mozzies and sandflies. It looked the perfect place for crocodiles but we didn't see any. Very quiet, very beautiful. Passed the Daintree area where the “Forest meets the Sea” Stunning scenery

Hope Isles 48 miles

Good sailing to get here although quite calm. Very small coral cay, our first. Moorings in the bay which we picked up. Quite calm and sheltered. 2 other yachts here we knew so we had a bit of a chat. Walked around the island in ½ hour. Looked at coral from the safety of the dinghy. Could have stayed longer but further north was calling.

Cooktown 23 miles

3 yachts headed for Cooktown to re supply. Fast sail quite windy. Biggest challenge here is where to anchor. We finally decided opposite the fishing wharf would be the best place but we were not far from the channel. Good facilities here, a laundromat right on the edge of the river. Comprehensive supermarket but it's a bit of a walk, although we saw the site where Captain Cook repaired his boat.

On the weekend following our visit there was to be a big festival where a re-enactment of his arrival was being proposed. Cooktown seems very proud of its place in Australia's history.

2 days here.

Lizard Island 46 miles

arrived at sunset. Good sail in quite stiff wind. 12 other international yachts here – most heading for Darwin like us. Spectacular scenery. Climbed to Cook's lookout. He climbed this mountain to look for a way through the reef to open ocean. Cooks Passage is 19 miles away. Low cloud patches covering the top of the mountain meant we could not get a clear view, but we were lucky we could see through in patches, other walkers waited for hours to see the view. Went snorkelling around the large coral patch in the middle of the bay (the Clam Garden) magnificent amazing, wonderful watching all the fish at work. It was like being a spectator in the CBD of a big city. Some of the clams were enormous!! Saw fish we'd only seen in aquariums. I could have stayed here a week or more. This is the usual end of the road for coastal cruisers – their destination before heading south again.

Flinders Group, Owen Passage 87 miles

Left Lizard at about 8pm in order to get to destination in daylight. Auto helm kept mis-behaving and beeping that it had gone off course. Don't know why but it made for an anxious night where we got little sleep. In the end we hand steered to anchorage after avoiding 2 ships in the narrow shipping channel. Owen Passage was serene and calm. Rather beautiful and quite dry. Evidence of crocodiles here. We had a visit from the Fisheries Patrol here to talk to us about rego, safety equipment and fishing zones. They were very friendly.

Morris Island 64 miles

started windy, wind eased to almost total calm. Had to motor most of day. It was a beautiful day. The alternator stopped working. The wind resumed as the sun set and we were only 9 miles from the island. There were boats there already. We arrived after sunset with a full moon which made it easy to see where to anchor. This is another coral cay. It is the first island we've seen with a palm tree on it. It is a significant landmark. The reef behind the island is enormous. A gap in a rocky shelf between the anchorage and the beach allows dinghy access. There is a rumour that a crocodile lives in the island. We saw no evidence of him. We went for a walk on the beach and were appalled at the amount of rubbish (plastic) on the beach here. Much of it is fishing rubbish, rope, nets, floats etc but thongs, bottles and other rubbish washes up here too.

We stayed here 2 nights while Greg tried to fix the alternator. He replaced it with a spare which seemed to work.

Townsville, Hinchinbrook and Cairns

posted Jun 6, 2011, 12:03 AM by Sue Norris   [ updated Feb 3, 2012, 11:30 PM ]

Week 4 took us to Townsville where we spent a few days sightseeing and filling up our new water tanks - 1000 litres we estimate and 2.5 cm lower in the water. We spent 3 days at the Townsville Yacht Club where the people and facilities were very good. We had a very long walk to Belgian Gardens for a computer part and a scenic tour of Townsville by bus after a visit to a shopping centre. We also visited Reef HQ which has the largest coral display tank in the world. It's the closest we have been to the coral so far.

Next stop Cairns. An overnight trip which began with the beautiful Hinchinbrook Channel after rounding the incredibly long sugar loading jetty at Lucinda. There is evidence of Cyclone Yasi everywhere where the trees were stripped bare of leaves but Mother Nature is making a very strong comeback in this fertile and moist area. It is uncommon for the days to be crystal clear and sunny but it was perfect for us. We chose to continue on over night and arrived at Cairns just as the sun was rising. It was very cold though. 3 layers of clothes, offshore yachting jacket and socks were not enough to keep us warm. Hot porridge for breakfast helped. We were offered a mooring and after changing into some cooler clothes we headed for town and Whitworths (It was Saturday afterall). Sunday saw us being tourists and re-provisioning for the next stage of our journey where there will be fewer shops.

We liked both of these tropical towns with very different personalities.

Week 3

posted May 29, 2011, 11:14 PM by Sue Norris   [ updated Jun 18, 2012, 9:21 PM ]

The most important milestone for our cruising life was being able to use our new autohelm system for the very first time with confidence after the work we  did at Bundaberg.. Up to now we have hand steered all the way - across Bass Strait, our aborted attempt to go east and to the Clarence River and back. I didn't know how much difference it would make to our sailing enjoyment. Now we could leave the helm to attend to sails, or other important activities while on watch alone. Paolo made an enormous difference to our lives -

5 islands and 2 continental anchorages,  640 miles and 1/3 of the way to Darwin . . .

                                      Tropic of Capricorn passed at 5:30am on Sunday 22 May.
  1. Great Keppel 128 nm from Bundaberg. A bit rolly all night. Second Beach. Good open anchorage and easy to anchor. Good holding. Cold when we were there Brrr  dolphins
  2. Hexham Is  47 miles from Pearl Bay. Beautiful anchorage in bay in 9.8m on north of island. High hills covered in Norfolk pines surrounding it. Safe. went ashore. only time in a week. accidental discovery - glad we did . .
  3. Digby Island, night entry a bit scary but with all instruments going was OK. rough and rolly all night - not as bad as Tangalooma but didn't get much sleep. 
  4. Scawfell Is  41 miles from Digby a bigger Hexham on N coastline at Refuge Bay. Lots of room for a fleet. Beautiful with high hills and beaches which went unexplored...anchored well in toward big beach. Big turtle watching us. fish schooling around the boat. Caught 4 trevally.
  5. Shaw Is 41 miles from Scawfell. anchorage marked in Lucas close to south west corner near bird sanctuary. The reefy area marked in his book is actually sand, but quite shallow. Across Kennedy Sound is Lindeman Is Club Med resort. Although it was breezy all night the fetch was short and was well protected from swell. The overfalls getting in there were quite interesting but not dangerous (3kt tide at times)

  • Pearl Bay  47 miles from Gt Keppel. Very sheltered through a narrow channel between islands. shallow in SE corner. Anchored behind hills between reef and beach sheltered from SE swell entering the bay. Area used for armed forces live firing activities and may be off limits. Local VMRs have the details. Very serene here. BLACK before the moon rose. I have never been anywhere outside so dark. Cloud cover meant there were no stars. safe from SE SW winds
  • Shute Harbour  in the Whitsundays at last . . .anchored just near the end of the moorings good holding.  Tied up at the fishing jetty. Caught bus to Airlie beach ( every half hour from Fantasea terminal)

Bundaberg details

posted May 29, 2011, 10:58 PM by Sue Norris   [ updated Feb 3, 2012, 11:38 PM ]

We had a few jobs to do in Bundaberg. There were things arriving in the post for us, glasses to pick up, a date with a rum distillery and an idle roller for the auto helm to make after designing it and sourcing the bits.
(Guess where I am?)Happy Greg
One highlight was the trip to the Bundaberg rum distillery. Factories are always interesting places. This one came with a taste test. YUM!! Like the liqueur . .
The other was seeing royal spoonbills feeding along the waters edge at low tide .

The flood damage was still evident in the trees along the waterfront. Rubbish was high in the branches and mangroves were pushed over with the  force. The navigation lights and markers in the river had been replaced and the Mid city Marina is only a shadow of its former self. They were about to start laying new mooring buoys.

The places we needed to source the parts to make the idle roller were close at hand fortunately. the saloon and cockpit again became workshops and the device was manufactured in the "Captain's workshop"

Our last night was spent at the Bundaberg Port Marina as a celebration of a job well done and we needed to fill up with water and clean laundry. Mission accomplished by 11:30 the next morning  when we slipped our lines and headed back out to sea after a week.

Gold Coast to Bundaberg

posted May 17, 2011, 11:02 PM by Sue Norris   [ updated Feb 3, 2012, 11:40 PM ]

Week 1 summary

Left Gold Coast and arrived at Bundaberg.

We travelled 280 miles and are very pleased with our progress so far. Lupari 2 has performed very well.

We had 1 terrible night's sleep at  “peaceful and beautiful” Tangalooma. It was for a while. It might be if you take a ferry over and stay at the resort. We didn't sleep at all during a south westerly blow, which wasn't even too strong. During the following day we had a great sail in exactly the same wind conditions. DON”T stay at Tangalooma if there is a south westerly (or anything blowing from the west I suspect) We had to move the boat at midnight as another boat was way too close for comfort and we decided that we didn't want to be near it. By morning a catamaran had been blown onto the beach.

We crossed 2 river entry bars, Mooloolaba and the notorious Wide bay Bar in perfect conditions, which relieved our stress a lot.

We found the bottom twice – once at Sheridan's Flats in the Great Sandy Straits and once in the Burnett River on our way to Bundaberg. No damage was done except to our pride.

We had 3 fantastic days sailing averaging over 6 knots. It helps to have the tide with you. Sometimes we were scooting along over 7 knots. It was exhilarating!!

During the week we met up with friends around the islands in southern Moreton Bay and Mooloolaba and in the Great Sandy Straits.

The Great Sandy Straits are beautiful, peaceful and riddled with mosquitoes and sandflies. It is, though, somewhere we would like to explore further on another adventure.

We have seen some spectacular sunsets.

It has been really cold – I know it is nearly winter but south westerlies are uncommon here.

Now we are in Bundaberg doing some work on the boat – the autohelm worked for a while in Moreton Bay but needed some more tweaking. It is now in bits. An engine bung has to be replaced and we are waiting on a replacement. While we are waiting we have an appointment at the Bundaberg rum distillery.

We have seen a family of magnificent, white-breasted sea eagles, only a few dolphins, one large swimming crab, but generally the ocean seems to be empty. No fish, no birds just a few boats.

We have met a few yachts who are doing what we are doing and heading north –

and its the furthest north we've been!!


posted May 14, 2011, 5:40 PM by Sue Norris   [ updated Feb 3, 2012, 11:44 PM ]

We arrived in Bundaberg last night. We have been a week on the high seas now and are very happy with our progress. Lupari 2 has been performing well and we have had some exhilarating sailing days.

We will add more details very soon.

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