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Blog entries relating to transit of the 32 foot steel yacht 'Tai Taki 2' from Sydney (NSW) to Mooloolaba (QLD) - 2009

Collection of snippets, diary entries and real sms text messages sent during the trip

1

Port Jackson (Sydney, NSW) to Pittwater (Palm Beach, NSW)

We left Rushcutter's Bay around nightfall and did a lap around the beautiful harbour at night cruising past the Sydney Opera House, Luna Park, the Harbour Bridge, Kirribilli House and Fort Denison. Putting along under motor, we decided to drop the 'pick' (anchor) at a quiet little bay between Manly wharf and the old Quarantine Station.

Early the next morning, we shot out the heads and sailed north along the northern beaches. The ocean swell was much rougher that the quiet harbour but under sail and using the tiller were pleasant as the winds appeared to be favouring our course. We rounded Barrenjoey Head into Pittwater and found a free mooring in a quiet anchorage directly opposite the west side of Palm Beach. The fishing lines trolling behind the yacht picked up a mackerel which was unfortunately 3/4 chomped by what was likely a shark before it could be reeled in! Good tunes and great cooked meals in the flat waters prompted a second nights stay. Also a complication with the gearbox oil spec and the need to top up supplies for the trip required a brief stop at the Prince Alfred Yacht Club in Newport and a trip to the local shopping mall.

2

Pittwater to Port Stephens (Nelson Bay, NSW)

Departing the mooring at dusk and at high tide provided a good opportunity to snag a fish for dinner at the port's entrance. We ploughed back and forth across the entrance while passing Lion Island at each crossing. A mackerel was the bounty which soon became the basis of an exotic fish curry.

The leg to Port Stephens saw an escalation of the uncomfortability of the open ocean. Passing Newcastle meant navigating between large tankers coming and going from port - risky at some levels, although the low speeds of less than 6 knots gave some solace in terms of timing. An unexpected jibe enroute caused every skipper's nightmare scenario - a ripped main sail. The rip occurred at the second reef point and went from the leech 2/3 the way across the the luff! Obviously with the main sail reefed down to the tear, it underperformed as it could no longer harness the maximum wind it was designed to harness. Being nearly 20 years old, it was touch-and-go to see whether it would hold out to Port Stephens... In the end it did, and we frantically began the search for a sail repairer that could fix it once in Nelson Bay. On a Saturday though, that would be difficult to orgainse at short order.

3

Big Swan Bay (Oyster Cove, NSW)

Heading deep into Port Stephens to the Oyster Barn at Oyster Cove to encounter some boatie mates was a very calculated journey. The shallows through the bays were dangerous and the channels through the oyster farm was narrow. The tide was also very strong, especially around the $5 mooring at which we stayed.

A search of the yacht for the oars for the dinghy came up blank so the only other way to get to shore using the inflatable dinghy was with th 3.3hp Mercury motor. This motor performed excellently to take us to shore, but after a meal at the local RSL, we attempted to get back to the yacht but encountered some strange events. The motor would start just fine but stall after a few seconds each time it was put into forward gear. This would not have been such a drama as for the fast outgoing tide pulling us further and further into the bay and away from the shore and yacht as each minute passed! Without oars and being pitch black 11pm at night a very few other boats in the vicinity, the situation appeared to be deteriorating rapidly. Rather than fix the motor or helplessly paddle with our hands, the skipper worked out a pattern that included starting the motor, pooping it into gear and edging closer to the yacht. After what seemed like 50 engine restarts, usually one step forward and 2 steps back, we made it back to the boat, with the primary thought of acquiring 2 oars at the next port of call!


4

Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour (NSW)

Monday came and the local sail repairer who took pity on our lot met us at Nelson Bay and picked up the sail for repair. By Tuesday morning, it was all good and we prepared to egress from Port Stephens for warmer waters to the north.

Feeling a bit like a mouse darting from hole to hole, we are taking advantage of easing 15knot winds together with a 3m swell to shoot north to the next safe port of call at Yamba. Expecting to be a shorter hop this time of only 10hrs in the big blue. Approaching on the high tide to avoid being stranded on the sand bar at the port entrance. Click here to unsubscribe from this mailing list. Seeya!

Winds have picked up and are hitting us on the nose. Very uncomfortable atm. Dark now, cold wind, no clouds, rough seas.

The rope securing the main boom snaps, the fragile main sail gets flung sideways and smacks into the rigging causing another (smaller) series of tears. Skipper finds some time later in port to repair the damage by hand-stitching it.

Not cold as much now since i am wearing about 4 layers. My shift on top deck is over. Got 3hrs to sleep before another 3hrs on watch at 0130am. Total disaster out there. The tiller pilot went nutzoid after an unexpected wind change, swung the boat 180degrees, tilted the yacht totally sideways! Took ages for skipper to sort out new sail config and fix the pilot. I'm drenched now and exhausted. What fun hey.

2 skipjack tuna find the lures we bought in Nelson Bay irresistable. Too bad they had to jump on just as we are trying to enter port, change the sail configurations and time the entry with the right tide. Otherwise it would have been sushi for brekky.

Great buffet at the Coffs ex-services club - one of the best ever - but absolutely stuffed now. Think I'll pass on any more along the way. We walked all the way from the club to the boat to get the blood flowing again.


5

Coffs to Southport (Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, QLD)

Very tricky exit from Coffs as the swell, winds and current all seem against us. Sailing now, engine off finally, its so loud as it is hard mounted to the steel rails, no rubber engine mounts to quieten it! Impossible to stay in cabin area while engine on if not wearing earplugs. Stars are out, millions of them are visible from way offshore out here.

Short hops between ports from now on. Next stop is Yamba, then Byron, then Tweed, then its all inshore from Southport thru Gold Coast backwaters-easy going!

The sea is angry my friends. South east swells up to 4m have meant getting into Yamba with its big sand bar was virtually doomed to fail as the sand bar across the entrance to the Clarence River is awash with huge breaking waves. As such, we are now about to head further north to find a sheltered cove. VMR (volunteer marine radio) has informed us over the VHF (very high frequency) radio that Ballina & Evans Head are closed due to the conditions so we are going to push on to Byron Bay or Tweed River. Stay tuned for the latest news on the high seas as it happens. Brought to u by Cozy brand (TM) sleeping sheets. 'Never go sailing in winter without em!'

Well, the 'short easy 10 hour hop to Yamba' has turned into the 'gruelling 42 hour crawl to Byron Bay'. Faced with strong winds on the nose from the north made the journey extremely bouncy, the bow (front) of the yacht climbed up and crashed down wave after wave the whole way. Lucky my bunk is at the stern (rear) so its not as bad as the skipper sleeping in the quarters up front, but mine is very uncomfortable too and nestled beside the noisy hard mounted engine and the noisy fridge.Tracking a pod of whales by Evan's Head was a pleasant distraction, as was the sweeping beams from the trusty Cape Byron lighthouse under spectacularly starry cloudless nights. Currently being tossed about at anchor here in turbulent Byron Bay until Southport reopens to boats & shipping when conditions further north improve.

Impossible to go ashore here at Byron to refuel, the dighy would get swamped if we even tried. Swell is huge. Boat is bobbing and rocking like crazy out here. Winds may abate later today so we'll dash for Southport with low fuel.

Day Eleventeen: 'An Ocean Of Extremes' Let me tell u that 7hrs at anchor in a violent & unrelenting Byron Bay would drive most to the brink. Our sea legs coped though & we chose to make a break before sunset rather than endure the madness any longer. During the egress, the anchor winch gave up & an hour later skipper had dragged in 60m of heavy chain by hand & put up the sails while i've tried to steer the yacht afloat in spite of the unrelenting waves sweeping over the deck that remind us who is boss out here. Only injury is sustained by the skipper, a mauled finger that was crushed in the fairlead. Not so bad, all things considered. Winds eased as predicted during the night, disappearing entirely,which of course is better for boat stability but utterly useless for sailing. Had we been able to go ashore at Byron Bay, we'd be happily motoring along. Reality is we are now dangerously low on fuel & virtually becalmed. Shooting stars, satellites passing overhead & a brilliant rising moon accompany me thru my night shifts. Next stop Tweed Heads maybe? Or wherever the elements take us...

My shift atm, on watch, top deck. Cold and rough but awesome starry night above. Hard to type up here getting splashed, freezing fingers.

'Stormy Progress' Being becalmed has its merits, although edging closer to your destination is not generally one of them. Eventually though, the winds do pick up. An amazing feeling is being woken up for your 2am night watch shift and seeing on the GPS that we've covered many nautical miles since your last shift (that ended at 11:30pm) in the exactly the right direction! Rounding Point Danger meant that Tweed Heads and the rest of NSW was finally behind us. That didn't stop us getting becalmed once again off the coast of Coolangatta. Soon a rare combination of 2 storms provided some scant but welcome breaths (and unfortunately rain as well). We critically needed to create a slingshot effect using the wind coming from these 2 storms (one from Buriegh Heads and one from Brisbane-way) to be flung safely through the Gold Coast seaway at exactly high tide into the calm and safety of the inland canals behind the rough beaches. A one-in-a-million chance requiring huge effort and a myriad of precise calculations, projections, sail adjustments, course changes, steering and patience. The time of high tide crept closer and the stress intensified. Missing this chance would mean disaster and being blown onto the rocks or worse! At the eleventh hour, the winds died down and so did our speed. Just when we thought it was all for nought, we were guided through the channel by a divine hand. Phew! Now we are berthed to refuel and get some much needed R&R. The final leg should be relaxed calmer waters to the Sunshine Coast so I'll be signing off on updates and will actually try to enjoy some of this trip.

Upon entering the Gold Coast seaway, we spotted a dredge, a fishing boat then we saw the powerboat 'Stargate'. This last boat happened to be the subject of an active boob cruise, ferrying at least 10 lucky gents and a couple of unclad gals along the channel on a pleasure trip of sorts -'twas a marvellous sight to behold for 2 pairs of tired, sea-wearied eyes!

 

6

Southport to Tangalooma (Moreton Island, QLD)

'Onward And Upward' Today our foray with solid ground has sadly ended. We have uprooted & departed the Gold Coast forging north toward our ultimate destination in the Sunshine Coast, a distant mark many nautical miles away. Marginally more refreshed after the R&R break, mainly due to too much R (recreation) and not enough R (rest). Navigating a route meandering between the mainland & the countless channels & islands including Nth & Sth Stradbroke Islands & Moreton Island will be a welcome relief compared to the fury of the open ocean. Fuelled up with a ridiculous excess of fuel will also bring some comfort during this leg. We r now carrying twice the amount of fuel we had upon leaving Coffs to cover less than a third of that distance to go! Overkill maybe, reassurance definitely! Having also restocked the scullery has led to a fresh bountiful meal being created which we r currently consuming on deck under yet another brilliantly starry night sky. Who knows what wonders await us on our journey through these unfamiliar sandy straights? Any moment some shifting bottom sand could run us aground or unwittingly guide another vessel upon us. Vigilance during night watch is now more heightened than ever!

Odd as it seemed, throughout the expanse of Moreton Bay on a Sunday morning at daybreak, we were virtually alone, yet we encounter a cluster of 27 independent boats fishing at one particular spot almost in the centre of the bay! Obviously the location of some specatular catches.

'Then The Frown Turned Into A Smile' Since leaving the safety of the marina in the Gold Coast, it has been all eyes on deck watching carefully for migrating submerged sandy shoals that threaten to ground any unsuspecting vessel cruising the shallow backwaters between the Broadwater and Brisbane's Moreton Bay. Birds and mangroves have been the staple sights along this route. Running aground only once was more than a satisfactory outcome, delaying us less than an hour while we struggled to resume our course. Powering across the expanse of the Bay for the last hours of the journey has revealed the most spectacular anchorage north of Hobart! As i study my surroundingsdressed only in shorts, i am bathed by clear warm sunny skies above, crystal clear turquoise 18 degree waters below & treestudded sand dunes behind white sandy beaches lining the shore. All this idyllic natural beauty is contrastingly nestled behind a crooked row of at least a dozen exposed shipwrecks in the Bay mere metres from the beach whose hulls are teeming with a dazzling array of colourful marine life all quite visible from the deck! Finally i can rest in there calm tranquil environs with the feeling that somehow the hard slog has been a little worth my while!

We enjoyed lots of time exploring the wrecks, the local resort as well as the hanging about on the beach and climbing the sand dunes. When it was time for us to head back to the boat one day, something unfortunate occurred. Some random passer-by had spied the little red release cable that cuts out the outboard motor of the dinghy (for safety reasons) and decided to pocket it to our major detriment. Without this critical cable, we were totally stuck on the beach without being able to use the motor of the dinghy, nor had we any backup oars to paddle back either! It was the ingenuity of the skipper who transformed a clip from a dry-bag into the necessary tool to start and run the motor long enough to reach the yacht. Very unfortunate circumstance that almost ruined a fantastic experience and if that person ever comes across this blog, I hope they have realised what a low act that was and if they believe in karma, well, 'nuff said.

 

7

Tangalooma Shipwrecks (off Moreton Island, QLD)

The following text has been parapahrased from here


Tangalooma is found on the western side of Moreton Island, about 90 minutes by boat from Brisbane across Moreton Bay. Moreton Island, is the third largest sand island in the world. Fraser Island further north in Queensland, is the largest, and North Stradbroke Island, just to the south of Tangalooma, is the 2nd largest sand island. Incredible that all three are in Queensland are they are spectacular places to visit! Tangalooma was originally a shore based whaling station perfectly positioned to process humpback whales caught off the coast during the winter months from June through to late October as they migrated to their breeding grounds further north. It wasn't just any old whaling station. During its ten years of operation, it was the largest onshore whaling station in the southern hemisphere. Thankfully, it was only open for a decade and closed in 1962. In that time, this had a huge effect on the humpback population. Today, there are still reminders of the old whaling station. The flensing deck where the whales were cut up is still standing and certainly gives a perspective of the size of the operation. I found it quite disturbing, especially after seeing some of the photos in the Marine Education and Conservation Centre. Thank goodness we watch the whales these days. Just north of the resort are the Tangalooma Wrecks. Fifteen vessels have been deliberately sunk here during the 1960's through until 1984. The first wreck was scuttled in 1963. Their purpose is to provide a safe anchorage on the eastern side of Moreton Bay. Today Tangalooma Wrecks are highly photographed and enjoyed by snorkellers and SCUBA divers alike. The wrecks have created a sort of artificial reef environment and habitat for many different types of marine life including wobbegongs, trevally, kingfish, yellowtail and lots of tropical fish.

 

8

Tangalooma to Mooloolaba (Sunshine Coast, QLD)

Mooloolaba harbour eventually comes hazily into view after we had passed Caloundra some miles back. The ocean is full of jellyfish and the occasional dolphin surfing the bow waves. At times, the ocean is so perfecly calm, it appears as though we are a white hot steel knife carving our way through a polished glass table.

'Mission Accomplished!' At exactly 14.27 AEST today, Tai Taki 2, the 32foot steel yacht on which I have been sailing, successfully completed her transit mission from the port of Melbourne VIC to Mooloolooba QLD. Needless to say the crew of 2 are both relieved and overjoyed that the trip finally ended without any loss of property or life other than the 2 helpless tuna and a mackerel caught enroute! The crew is in good spirits as the last leg from Tangalooma proceeded without incident and with the highly appreciated assistance of unexpected favourable winds, tides, swell and currents for this last 5% of the journey (it had all been unfavourable to our great dismay for the other 95% of the way!). Now begins a leisurely drive home back down the eastern seaboard back to reality and the comfort of terra firma. Over & out.