Part One


Pittwater to Gladstone








May 22, 2013


As I cranked the dinghy up out of the water to its traveling position on the bow, the halyard caught on something. Huh? Hmm... Whoops! Looking up, Jim and I realized we'd completely forgotten about the spike strips and fishing line strung across the spreaders to keep the cormorants off while we were away.



Out came the bosun's chair, the jumar, and the aiders (webbing steps) and up the mast Jim went. He made it to the first set of spreaders before the electric winch began to slip.

Once again, a back-burner project bolted ahead of everything else. But, of course, by now it was getting dark. The next morning Jim took apart the cranky crank which has an extraordinary number of tiny pieces. He cleaned it thoroughly with Simple Green and replaced the surprisingly small springs so now the little pawls no longer stick.



Tenaya's fridge and pantry were full and the net basket overflowed with fruit. We'd done a Costco run. Yes, there are Costcos in Sydney! Our account was settled with Careel Bay Marina and the fuel tanks were topped up. Jim and I were ready to sail north towards the Great Barrier Reef.



We dropped the mooring ball at 1100 on Tuesday, May 14 and headed out. The log wasn't working so our speed and distance weren't being measured. There was no way we were going to sail 700 miles and not get credit for it so we turned around and grabbed the mooring again. The log had been painted with antifouling and was stuck. By 1145 we were truly on our way.



The warmth of the sun balanced the chill of the autumn breeze as we motorsailed out of Pittwater and into the Tasman Sea. During the night we sailed on a broad reach with winds 15-22 knots. A sliver of a moon set early, leaving the black sky full of stars.



We passed Newcastle, a major shipping port. At midnight I wrote in the ship's log that two cargo ships were approaching from behind, one to port, one to starboard. Each was about a half mile away.

I watched the AIS and their lights carefully. The one to SB would pass 15 minutes earlier than the one to PT so I would change course 10 degrees away until it passed, then change course again away from the second ship.

Then the first guy changed course 10 degrees towards both of us. Wrong way, Bud! He figured it out and went out away from us so gave me .8 mile between each ship. Good enough. All the while Jim slept. He wouldn't have liked that at all.



By morning the winds had dropped to the single digits as the front passed. At noon a funny noise began to hum out of the engine room. Jim crawled in to investigate. Whoops again. He'd forgotten to burp the stern gland when Tenaya went back into the water. That could have been disastrous. We really should glance at that checklist we complied when we first started sailing!



Later that afternoon dolphins came and rode the bow wave for a while. I love it when they do that and when they look up when I talk to them. It's one of the best things about passages!



I always prepare meals for 3-4 days ahead of time if we haven't done a passage for a while. It takes a couple of days for my body to adjust to the ocean motion so I try to keep my time in the galley to a minimum. This time I made scalloped potatoes, a Mexican casserole with corn tortillas, and pasta salad with tuna and tarragon. I also made some banana yogurt to eat with walnuts, dried blueberries and chocolate chips. We're big on comfort food on passages! That, apples and a lot of crackers.















Our destination was Gladstone, over 700nm north. The plan was to go as far as we could in one shot. The prevailing winds are southerly which is nice for going this direction.

The downside is the current. Did you see Nemo? That fast fish highway is this Eastern Australian Current. Up to four knots! It really does a number on the Speed Over Ground. We tried our best to stay out of it but didn't always succeed.



We did short watches this trip because we were so close to land, had a bit of shipping traffic, the nights were chilly, and there were lobster pots. The chart asks mariners to stay outside the 200 meter contour if possible, but that was right smack in the middle of the strongest current. Four hours on, four off, around the clock. Basically that meant we were either on watch or asleep.



On Day Three we passed Coffs Harbour where we could have turned in, anchored or gone into the marina where we weathered Tropical Storm Oswald, and had a nice dinner and a good night sleep. Together. But we kept going.

On Day Five we could have gone into Mooloolaba Marina and had a break. But we kept going.

Every other night we could have gone up a river and anchored. But we kept going.



Dolphins visited several times. One night a Brown Booby circled before landing on the bow and spending 3 hours perched there. Each night the wind kicked up to about 20 knots as we sailed along on either a broad or beam reach. We reefed the sails at sunset for comfort and Tenaya sailed nicely under the clear, black sky away from the Southern Cross and and under the watchful stance of Orion.



During his daylight watches, Jim read from his kindle and at night listened to podcasts. I researched what islands we should visit in the Whitsundays and listened to music on my iTouch.



I love night watches! The sky is always magical and this trip it was exceptionally clear most nights. On the 18th the half moon turned the deepest, richest orange color just before it set. Later Scorpio hung by his stinger from the Milky Way as it stretched horizontally across the entire sky.



On Day Seven we arrived at Gladstone Marina. The Lucas guidebook makes Gladstone sound horrible as it is an industrial city shipping out large quantities of coal, but the marina and small town aren't bad. We actually like it much better than Bundaberg and would think about making landfall here if we ever return.



The Gladstone Port Authority has done a fine job developing the area around the necessary port with parks and green spaces. There are pretty walks along footpaths that meander through the trees filled with singing, and sometimes squawking, birds. These Rainbow Lorikeets swarm the sky just before dusk in a most raucous manner. Their noisy cacophony can almost be excused by their beauty. Almost.



In a few miles we will reach the Tropic of Capricorn and officially be in the tropics. The days are warm but the nights are still cool enough to use our down comforters. We are now inside the Great Barrier Reef and look forward to heading off to explore the islands.

As a follow-up to the last page, our condo in Mammoth will close escrow tomorrow! The new owner will name it Tenaya in our honor. How cool is that? Happy nesting, Melanie, in your new home high in the pines.

Go to May 2013 Part Two - Carnarvon Gorge, Queensland


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