New South Wales at last

We are on our way to Tasmania. We have been on our way to Tasmania for a month. We could get depressed

We are going nowhere. A month of trying to get to Tasmania and we only made 900 km. Google Maps says we could have driven here in nine hours. The wind is always against us or there is no wind or there is a storm. And the motor has a problem and the boat leaks and …”

But that is not us.

A month ago we left Bundaberg heading South with a plan to sail the 2600 km to Tasmania. Since then we have enjoyed fantastic sailing and are convinced that Artemis is much faster with her new antifouling.

Artemis at anchor in Coffs Harbour

The periods of no wind, too much wind or head wind have given us the time to revisit Fraser Island, visit friends and see new places on the way south. We have always found well sheltered places to hide as the storms come through.

We were in Coffs Harbour waiting for the wind and so we had time to go mountain biking. The bikes are the perfect way to see “behind the scenes” where ever we are. This time we cycled through housing estates and then out in to the countryside. We started to climb a hill when Heidi’s pedal had a problem. Back on the road a council worker lent us his adjustable spanner to fix the pedal and then gave us a refill of iced water. A dream! Back in the hills we climbed a stupidly steep track and then trailed back down a long flowy route through the forest. A mountain bike is like a boat – freedom!

In Coffs Harbour we also let the locals convince us that the sea was now safe with absolutely no crocodiles and probably nothing else too dangerous. Feeling very bold Neill dived off the boat and Heidi took the more sedate route down the ladder. (How can any one climb slowly in to cold water feeling it slowly rise up around you and then it reaches the top of your legs! No way!) Even if the sea is “refreshing” it is great to be back in the water.

The Hastings River. Boats at anchor. Port Macquaerie in the distance. A water plna elanding next to us.

The main engine was failing to start occasionally but we have identified the problem, patched up a fix and are now in correspondence with Davo about how too fix it properly. The advantage of being a sail boat is that the engine is mostly a “nice option” – unless you are drifting towards the coast with no wind, then it becomes mission critical.

In the galley (kitchen) we had a leak but while in Port Macquarie Heidi decided that the time had come to “sort it out”. A day later the necessary woodwork had been removed, the internal hole plugged and the external hole sealed with epoxy. Half way through the job we had our first hail storm since we left sailing but the following downpour proved that we had stopped the leak.

And today the local maritime patrol guy came past in his patrol boat for a chat and offered some advice about crossing the river bar tomorrow.

Life isn’t so bad 🙂

Sailing South down East Australia

Life is happening faster than I can write about it. From Bundaberg to Fraser Island then on to Moreton Bay and the Gold coast before passing behind Danger Reef and using the strong winds to finally reach New South Wales and Cobbs Harbour.

While waiting for the wind to change in our favor we took a walk along the long lonely beach on Fraser Island. Just the two of us. And a million soldier crabs.

If the skipper gets a rope wrapped around the propeller, then the skipper goes in the water to cut it off – and tries not to think about the crocodiles, sharks, jellyfish and snakes.

In Moreton Bay the shipping lane is a little confined so, when a ten story cruise ship wanted to pass, we moved a little to the side.

Night time off Brisbane. The skyline is full of the lights of anchored ships but luckily we have them all on the AIS screen so we can sail a course around them all. Hopefully they all have their AIS senders and lights switched on.

We passed between Cooks Island and the swell breaking on Danger Reefs just before sunset. The channel is deep but very narrow. The trick was to reach the start of the channel and then turn EXACTLY 180°. Luckily there was a small wood on the distant land that you could aim for.

We were running in front of strong winds trying to reach Byron Point (the most easterly point on the Australian mainland) where we could duck in to the wind shadow of Australia. All afternoon we saw the sailing boat A’Bientot chasing us. She eventually passed us at sunset.

We rounded the South Solitary Island with its old lighthouse after two days at sea and just before turning in to Coffs harbour – our first landfall in New South Wales.

You need friends

The world is beautiful. The sea is magical. The land is teeming with myriads of plants and animals. But, it is the people we meet who make our travels so interesting.

We were anchored off Fraser Island close to another boat and each time we passed, we checked if there was anyone sat in the cockpit but found it empty. On day two or maybe three the neighbors waved and then came across in their dinghy. We agreed to meet at sundown on their boat for drinks. We took a home made pizza bread with us and the sundowner turned in to a late-nighter.

SY Hau Korahi at anchor off Fraser Island

They were getting ready to leave their boat for six months and so needed help emptying their freezer. The next night we gave our best and it was once again very late when we took the dinghy home under the stars. The third night they moved down the island and anchored in another bay. We followed, anchored next to them and continued to be “helpful”. I still have no idea where the six hours went each evening but none of us were bored.

Thank you Sally and Neville from the sailing yacht Hau Korahi for three wonderful evenings.

We left the company of Hau Korahi to sail in to Moreton Bay and tie up to friends private jetty at the “bottom of their garden”. Sue and Chris are sailors and understand the priorities. Attach Artemis safely to land, have a shower, put everything in the washing machine and then make a drink and enjoy great company.

We spent three nights with these fantastic friends. They took us to all the shops we needed for those “hard to find little bits”. Without their help we would never have even known where to start looking. They also lent us their car to do a major shop and fill the lockers. It was amazing knowing that we had a vehicle from supermarket to boat. Normally we agonize over how many items we can fit in our rucksacks and bags, on this occasion we just bought a few extra of everything. The luxury of it all.

We asked if we could stay an extra day so that we could repair our bimini (cockpit sun cover) on their shady, flat, clean terrace. Not only did they agree, Sue spent the entire day assisting, explaining how we could improve things and suggesting two perfect design modifications.

In the evenings, they taught us two new games and Neill continuously lost both badly. And we should also mention the stream of fantastically cooked meals and refreshing drinks.

Thank you Sue, thank you Chris. Our break with you was such fun.

The Hummock – and surroundings

In the Canary Islands we cycled the 2100 meters uphill to the rim of Teide. Off Africa we cycled 1100 meters uphill through a desert to the crater of Santa Antao. In South America we cycled in to the Andes and across a 3500 meter pass. We then cycled down Cotopaxi from 4600 meters. In Polynesia we cycled across the middle of Tahiti. And now we are in Bundaberg, Australia so we needed to get out and cycle the highest mountain.

Bundaberg’s highest point is “the Sloping Hummock” which was named by Lieutenant Flinders. He was obviously very imaginative as, seen from the sea, the hill is a sloping hummock. It is a very impressive 96 meters above sea level.

We left Artemis anchored in the river in the middle of Bundaberg and cycled through the Baldwin Swamp and then out of the town heading East. The Hummock is easily seen across the table flat landscape and the views from the top were extensive.

We then continued out to the Pacific coast where we ate a snack and enjoyed the view back across the ocean where we had come from. We both felt that it was time we sailed Artemis back down the river and out in to the ocean where she belongs.

On the beachfront, Heidi was attacked by a “swooping bird”. These are magpies that attack you as you cycle past and the reason most cyclists have cable ties sticking out of the top of their helmets. We do not yet have this modification so when the bird attacked Heidi, it took a peck at her cheek which surprised her. In Australia it appears everything attacks you.

Fertile fields from river to ocean

Back in Bundaberg, we visited the Rum Distillery. We decided not to buy a bottle of rum for $450, nor a “Bundaberg Rum” hat for $60. We also passed on the tour of the distillery so enjoyed a very inexpensive visit.

As we had the bikes put together, we also visited the swamps again, the ginger beer brewery, the zoo and the vegetable store. An enjoyable exploration of Bundaberg.

Burnett River life

and in Australia the weather was … SUNNY! Except over Bundaberg, where the mother of all rain storms was hovering like a huge ink blot on the weather radar.

The screenshot shows clear skies all over the surrounding country but a 300 kilometer wide torrential rain storm sat right over us. And it sat there for 24 hours. The boat is shiny clean, the water cans are full to brimming with fresh rain water scooped out of the dinghy and we decided against cycling.

The rain leaked through the window above the sleeping Heidi so, as soon as the rain finished, there was a change of plan and that window was ripped out and the new polycarbonate “none leaky” window installed. If we are anything, we are flexible.

This week we also managed to remove our “holding tank” (the polite name for where the s%&t from the toilet goes) from under the bed and take it to some one who found the leak and repaired it. We then reinstalled it and things look no different to before we started. I am so glad we have photos to prove that we actually do something.

We also installed new service batteries. The third set since we started. To paraphrase something we recently heard from a sailor
Solar power is the most expensive way to get electricity for free
But, at the same time renewable energy is absolute freedom and we wouldn’t ever want to be without it.

So we got rained on, had a leaky, s%&t tank and spent more money on more batteries but then the sun sets across the river and you realize, there are much worse ways to live.

After the rain

Finally back exploring the World

We spent four weeks working on the boat, two on the hard stand and two in the marina. Various people commented on our hard work and how beautiful Artemis looks but we were both itching to “get going again”.

Yesterday we put all the sails back on to Artemis and she looked like a sailing boat. In the evening we attended our last “cruisers BBQ” at the marina and this morning we backed out of the berth and entered the Burnett River. There was hardly any wind but we still shook out the mainsail to re-stack it and left it up “just for fun”.

a happy skipper

We headed upriver being pushed by the rising tide. The motor ran nicely, the tide added a knot and even the wind occasionally filled the sails. Life was as it should be.

At one point the charts showed a depth of zero centimeters so we were relying on the tide adding two meter to that so that we could sneak across the sand bar. Heidi was navigating, Neill was watching the depth meter, the situation was tense but everything worked out. We had 40 centimeters between us and the bottom. Easy!

turning sugar cane in to Rum

We passed farms, houses and the famous Bundaberg Rum distillery – where all the local sugar cane gets converted to Rum – and finally anchored in the middle of town. The trip was under ten miles but it was our return to freedom.

Over four years ago, when we first left from the yard in Scotland, we achieved only five miles, so we are getting better.

Getting Shipshape

Before we left Artemis in March, we cleaned everything and were really happy when we opened the hatch and found all that clean woodwork waiting for us. Over the next week and a half we ground all the old anti-fouling and epoxy off the hull in a dusty boat yard. We then applied new epoxy to the hull and covered that with four coats of Coppercoat during a non-stop six hour painting marathon.

Two weeks work

After all that, the boat was no longer so clean.

We launched on a Friday morning. Nothing leaked and it was beautiful to finally be a boat with the gentle rocking we know after four years at sea. In the marina we had unlimited water so could seriously clean the deck, cockpit and all the fittings. We then spent three days masking everything up and repainting the deck with anti-slip. Hard work but worth it.

Three days work

We have also started to change all the internal lights to new LED systems and begun the major “change all eight windows” project that has been planned since Polynesia. We are definitely back in boating life and dreaming of “heading off up the river” at the end of this week.

There are a number of other cruisers in the marina. Many coastal sailors and a few ocean sailors. We all meet up on a Friday night for a marina sponsored barbecue, swap stories and receive invitations to “pop in” for a visit when you pass. Australians are so friendly.

Stop press: During all the painting, my very best, most favorite, work trousers ripped again and looked like they were finally dead. But Heidi saved them and I now have a really fashionable yellow rip. Impressive or what?

German Summer

Time to write a blog. What was the address to log in to Buruwang? What is my password? Where do I click to write a new blog post? I can tell that it is a long time since I last posted an entry here.

But I have a good excuse. OK! It is the excuse I always use. Life happens too quickly to find time to write about it. But the six months in Germany were so packed that we didn’t even have time for living all the life we needed to live.

Heidi was immediately back in to paid life with a job in her bosses new practice and another as a waitress at the Hotel Krone in Mittelberg. She loved both jobs but some days she was hardly at home.

Luckily the German government decided to reform the property tax. The execution of this project was completely incompetent which resulted in loads of unwanted extra work for the tax advisors. While some just panicked, Barbara employed me to deal with the project. A fantastically enjoyable job with great colleagues. I also worked a fair few overtime hours.

The daily commute to work. 9km with the bike (mostly)

Our sailor friends from the sailing yacht Sybo visited us and managed to experience a day of winter, a day of spring and a day of summer all in the same weekend. We enjoyed showing them Allgäu and reminiscing.

We visited my sister and her family in the UK. While there, I proposed to Heidi and she accepted so we had to fit in getting married before we left Germany. Heidi also had a “little bit” of work helping her daughter, Julia prepare for her wedding.

A few years ago we bought an apartment that was being built. It was finished this spring so we bought the furnishings and kitchen, installed curtains and fittings and completed everything so that our friends Caro and Stefano can now rent it as a holiday flat.

We cycled with Wera and Gremmel in Allgäu and, during a long weekend, in the Bavarian Forest. We also cycled to work and back each day but that is commuting and therefore not officially fun.

We visited friends, friends visited us and we went out with friends. All the children were four years older and some new houses had appeared, but it was still sometimes hard to believe we had been away four years. Real friends are those who you can visit after years and it seems like yesterday.

And then last week Julia and Michael drove us to the airport and it felt like we had only been picked up by Daniel a week before but had lived a year in the last six months.

Flood! Storm! Lightning!

The [Mary] river level may exceed the major flood level from Sunday morning. Further river level rises above the Major flood level are possible.

Queensland Flood Warning Number: 14

HEAVY RAINFALL which may lead to flash flooding is forecast. INTENSE RAINFALL leading to dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding. DAMAGING WIND GUSTS with peak gusts in excess of 90 km/h .

Queensland Severe Weather Warning 1

Mary River … will move to RED ALERT from 2200 hrs

Marine Rescue Hervey Bay

Australian weather is a bit like Australian Fauna. You get the impression it wants to kill you.

Day 1:

On a buoy in Maryborough surrounded by the damage from the floods six weeks ago. The marina owner warned us we should move down river as a minor flood was forecast. By the time we left the warning had been updated to a moderate flood.

A tree heading downstream on the Mary River

Sailed downriver. Following a “local” as we guessed he knew the best route. The local crashed in to a sandbank that was not charted. A second local boat crashed next to him. We went round the bank and turned the corner. We were immediately hit by one of the “damaging wind gusts” and could make no progress against wind and waves. Turned round and anchored.

Day 2:

Rain, rain and more rain

Woke to find trees passing us in the flood water. The warning had been updated to a major flood. Lifted anchor and passed another uncharted sandbank which five local boats had hit the previous day. Navigated very gingerly to the river mouth and then out in to the Great Sandy Strait.

Only three miles from the safety of Fraser Island we were lashed by a storm which drove us backwards. Hemmed in between sandbanks we could only turn back towards the mainland.

The wind meter went crazy with the static charge of an electrical storm. We are pretty sure we did not really have 99 knots of wind. A lightning strike next to the boat destroyed the electronics leaving us with no wind speed or depth meter. It also electrocuted Heidi who was below decks. Luckily she recovered – unlike the electronics.

Against the outflow of the Mary River we could barely make one knot despite the storm from behind. The sea was “crazy” with the boat turning in all directions. We made it back past the river mouth and – guided by the marine rescue – found an anchorage in the Susan River for the night.

Day 3:

The river was running strong all night. The marine rescue and the Queensland government suggested it was not the place to be as the River moved to “Red Alert” so we sailed through the drizzle to hide behind Fraser Island and weather the “strong winds” forecast for the next three days. Luckily we have a handheld depth meter to find the anchor spot.

Sailing! Never boring.

Up the Mary River

From Fraser Island, we crossed back to mainland Australia and followed the Mary River up to the town of Maryborough. After four years of oceans, it is a nice change to be sailing along a river with farmland on each side of us. The river flooded massively last month and we could still see the flood debris high in the trees.

The Mary River

Off Maryborough we anchored below Lookout Point for the night. The next day we moved up to the marina and took one of their buoys so that we could go off biking without worrying about the boat dragging when the tide changes and the boat swings.

Anchored below Lookout Point

We assembled the bikes and then used them for a short exploration of the town. To start we cycled through the suburbs to look at the typical Queensland houses with their raised verandas. Then in to the “town center” to look at the (for Australia) old houses including the post office that dates back to 1865 making it the oldest standing post office in Australia. Queens Park contains a moving war memorial that describes the futility of Australian and New Zealand involvement in the First World War.

ANZAC officer, Mary Poppins, Post Office

Mary Poppins was written in Maryborough and we found a statue of her and also enjoyed the Mary Poppins traffic lights that are installed at the city’s intersections.

On the second day, we were out early to beat the forecast rain. It had been raining all night so we found a few minor floods to cross but managed to return and have the bikes packed away before the clouds opened and drenched the whole county.

Our routes are both at Alltrails:
day 1
day 2