Wednesday, November 15, 2017

High Winds and Shipwrecks

Needing to move south, it was time to say farewell to the Whitsunday Islands


After a windy night at Sawfell Island, we arrived at Middle Percy Island's West Bay.  Here we saw the biggest tidal range of anywhere we've been.  Twenty feet.


When somebody pulls the plug on the pond here, you better be in deep water.


Ashore, we noticed these tiny white signs posted on some of the palms, so moved closer to see what they had to say.



Seems like a trap.  You need to be just a few feet away to read this warning.  Right in the kill zone!


Lots of ammunition too!


But the real attraction here is the Percy Island Yacht Club.  We've seen lots of places where cruises hang their burgees, or other bits of memorabilia from their yacht, with dates, crew, etc., but Percy Island takes the cake.


There are hundreds and hundreds of articles packed into every nook and cranny some dating back 40 years.


Wonder if anyone will know about the Ha-Ha here.


Great sights from the broad beach out front.


And Percy is far enough offshore to get a sunset splashdown.




Next stop was Bundaberg.  Bundy.  Home of the Bundaberg Rum.  In their email reply for a booking, the Port Bundaberg Marina wasn't too certain they could accommodate Moonshadow because a rally of yachts had just arrived from New Caledonia.  After several phone calls, they produced a berth, which turned out to be the best thing that happened in Bundy, because a couple of hours after tying up, the sky got really dark.  A front was moving through.  It was still mid afternoon, but looked like the sun had already set.  We picked up loose things on deck, put all the cockpit cushions below, secured for rain, and waited below with a cocktail.  When the rain came there was also wind.  Boy was there wind.  Topside it sounded like a 747 just taxied into the berth next to us.  We caught this image with a gust at 61 knots, but a neighbor boat later told us they saw 72 knots on their instruments.


Here's what hurricane force winds gusts looked like from Moonshadow's cockpit where John stuck the underwater camera up through the hatch for a look see.




It was enough to take out this 80 year old tree in town...


...and, sadly for Ben and Helen, owners of the catamaran Felix, the brief storm was enough to destroy their floating home.  Half sunk, they were able to get her to some shallow water.


By the end of the next day, they had Felix high and dry...




... but this type of event can be the end of a boat or the beginning of a year of work.  These two cranes had to abandon their efforts as the boat was too far out and too heavy.  Felix was later taken up river to a boatyard.


If you didn't know that Bundaberg was the home of Bundabeg Rum, the Grand Hotel in town helps with Bundaberg Rum logos painted all around the facade.


Remindes us of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.  But different.



We like rum.  Just not Bundy rum.  Unless we're talking about the $179.99 per bottle Solara we tasted at the distillery, but $179.99?  Yeah, nah.


We asked the marina what there was to do nearby, and learned there was a hotel just about a 20 minute walk out that way.  Looking forward to a cocktail by the bar, or maybe even a swim up bar, we took off on foot.  Yeah, nah.


But we did see some beauiful birds along the way.  According to our birder friends Nikk and Jan these are Rainbow Lorikeets and Pink Galahs...


And here, of course is the Masked Lapwing.


We remained in Port Bundaberg Marina for a week waiting out strong winds, and left the rain behind.


Further south was Urangan, at the north end of the Great Sandy Strait, where we booked a tour of Fraser Island.  A short bus ride from the marina found us on the vehicular ferry, where the captain let John handle things in the bridge.  Well, he didn't seem to object to my taking pictures through the rear windows of the bridge.


From our landing on Fraser Island, a giant four-wheel-drive all-terrain bus took us through a rain forest across the island to it's eastern shore...


...where we popped out onto Seventy-Five Mile Beach.  Here we took advantage of low tide cruising along on the smooth sand beach at 80 kph.


Eighty-two years ago, the steel ship Maheno was on her way to Japan. She was at the end of her life and sold for scrap.  



Maheno was being towed when an out of season cyclone hit the area.  The tow line snapped and Maheno, without her propeller which had been removed, was helpless.



Here she is today.


When the bus tour driver offered the option to take a hop in an airplane for an aerial view of the island, we said we're in!


They call it Seventy-Five Mile Beach...




... where do they come up with names for places like this?
The flight was definitely a good call.


Back in the bus, we stopped in the rain forest where some of the trees (not this one) are ancient ~1,000 years old.


We saw a Strangler Fig engulfing a large tree...


... which reminded us of the one we climbed in Costa Rica. In Costa Rica the vines of the Fig had long ago choked the life out of the host tree, leaving a hollow core.  


This rainforest is also home of the largest ferns.




When the camera comes out... 


...there's always a ham in the crowd.



The last stop was at beautiful fresh water Mackenzie Lake.


Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world.  This lake is 400 meters above sea level.  The rainwater would all seep out through the sand, but a layer of dried and hardened decayed organic matter creates a watertight bowl trapping the lake water.  


The lake is surrounded by pure white silica sand.


Back to Moonshadow now for our next step through the Great Sandy Strait and over the Wide Bay Bar...


... where we hope to fare better than Moheno, saving beaches for selfies!










Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Selfies, Sunsets, and Smooth Sailing

We believe that when you have a good weather window, you take it.  So when we left New Caledonia early, naturally our arrival in Australia was earlier than it needed to be, and we found ourselves somewhat stranded at the Mackay (pronounced "mak-eye") Marina until our flight back to San Diego.  Anxious to see family and friends it seemed like that took forever. The marina is nice enough but there isn't much to do without a car.  When we finally got to our seats we took a selfie to show that we were just about as happy as the photo-bombers in the seats behind us!

Proof of how things carry on back home without us, grandson Brandon went ahead and grew like a weed since our last visit...


... and Natalie got even more beautiful while our backs were turned.


Girls having fun making slime.


Our main reason for this short trip home was the chance to see our niece 
Danielle in her wedding ceremony.

Weddings are always so much fun.


Beween doctors, dentists, and visits with friends and family, there was just enough time for a walk (and a selfie) on the beach in Cardiff near our favorite Mexican restaurant...


... and to imagine the sunset over the Pacific without that continent (Australia) in the way.


Before we knew it we were back in OZ, and out of the marina, checking out the southern islands of the Whitsunday group.  Who'da thunk there would be pines in the tropics?


Time for another selfie.

We even got far enough offshore to see the sunset in the ocean!


The spring weather here is wonderful.  Perfect for paddle-boarding.


But we could only endure so much.  The ideal remedy was a stop at the Palm Bay Resort where we could lounge around their stunningly beautiful pool while sipping cocktails.

The waterfall was tranquil and beautiful, but then...


... that day, beauty was everywhere.

We had to be careful where we anchored Moonshadow because the tidal range runs over ten feet.  That usually means Moonshadow is quite a distance from the beach.


Doing it wrong here would not turn out as well for Moonshadow as with these catamarans who found themselves be quite a distance from the water.


We finally stopped at Hamilton Island for some provisions and restaurant food.  Everybody gets around in electric golf carts here


The grocery store caters to bare-boat charters provisioning with everything needed for gourmet meals.


At Blue Pearl Bay, Deb fed the bat fish (they look like giant angle fish) as we had done 12 years ago on a bare-boat charter of our own.


Then a night of strong wind with "bullets" surging down the canyons blew out our awning so out came the trusty sewing machine for some extensive repairs.


After that we headed off to Arlie Beach where there is a Sunday Market that reminded us of the market back in good ole La Cruz, Mexico.  


A restaurant by the marina that serves Italian Pizza and Mexican beer in Australia just has to put a smile on your face.

Speaking of Mexico, Arlie Beach is where we had a reunion with friends from La Cruz, Nikk and Jan.  Taking a break from cruising their own boat in Mexico, they are on a two month tour of Oz.  That gave them time to become part of the Moo Crew as we visited several of the Whitsunday Islands.  Like the British Virgin Islands, the Whitsundays are closely grouped so each hop between islands is just a hour or two sail in smooth water.

Sadly, like the BVIs, the Whitsunday Islands were devastated by Cyclone Debbie six months ago.  Hayman Island, which was the worst hit, is still showing the effects of 140 knot winds that lingered here as the category 4 system slowly moved past at 5 knots.  Most of the trees not uprooted or snapped off by the winds are dead because the wind stripped the bark off of the trunks and branches.  

Before the cyclone, it would have been impossible to see boats anchored below through the lush vegetation on Hayman's hillside trail.

Moonshadow in Blue Pearl Bay through the dead bark-stripped trees of Hayman Island.


The few surviving trees grow in steep sides and canyons of the island.



On Esk Island, near Whitehaven Beach, we had some trouble posing for a self timer camera shot...


... still not sure why.



Fortunately, having Moo Crew along eliminates the need for selfies or timers.


Sun setting over Hook Island



Whitehaven Beach has the whitest silica sand you'll ever see.  The grains of sand are about the size of table salt, and the beach squeaks when you scuff your feet.

The sand is so white it hurts your eyes.

Behind the beach, a tidal estuary extends about five miles into the interior of Hook Island.


A three hour sail from Whitehaven brought us out to the Great Barrier Reef...

... where the conditions at Bait Reef, near Hook Reef were calm enough to spend the night.  It was a bit eerie to be moored so far from land.  Sadly, the same Cyclone Debbie that had done so much damage to Hayman Island had also damaged a lot of the coral.


Nikk and Jan are bird watchers, so we suddenly found ourselves much more aware of the birds all around us



This cockatoo could have easily become part of the Moo Crew.


Back on Hamilton Island, we hopped on a bus to tour the sights.


Hmmm... how do you suppose this wallaby made it to the island.


One of the attractions we wanted to see was the park (and bar) at One Tree Hill.  
We're all pretty sure this place was named before all these palm trees showed up.


Our cockatoo friend is still trying to join the Moo Crew...


... or maybe just score a peanut.


Everybody comes to One Tree Hill to take selfies...



... and to watch the sunset over Molle and Dent Islands


We took shelter from some northerly winds in Nara Inlet on Hook Island.  

This is the home of the ancient sea-faring Ngara aboriginal tribes.  


Nikk is better at running to join the pose with camera timer selfies.
Some of the Ngara left cave paintings here for us to ponder
We taught Nikk and Jan to play Mexican Train, and finally mastered the camera-timer-selfie.


The evening glass-off was perfect for paddling around the inlet...


...which has some amazing formations of lava and sandstone...


... like this standing ocean wave, cast in lava and frozen in time.


Finally it was time to sail back to Arlie Beach where Nikk and Jan caught a train to Brisbane and points further south as they continue their tour of Australia by land.  Nikk seemed happy to be sailing while his own cruising sailboat "Balance" awaits his return to her in San Carlos, Mexico.


Now it's back to just us two in the Moo Crew.  We wonder what's next.  We know we'll be sailing south as far as Sydney, but first must learn where to drop the hook along the way, where we'll take the next selfie, and where all the best sunsets can be found...