Index of slides.
We still wanted to see a bit more of the Whitsundays so we set course east for Hayman Island. Snorkled at Blue Perl Bay but decided to spend the night in Nara Inlet because the NE wind hadn't dropped off as the weather forcast suggested. Big surprise. We successfully held off one of the big racing maxi yachts on the run down Whitsunday Passage. Upwind, first reef to first reef. Of course, they might not have been racing. The next morning we went for more snorkling at Border Island, then on down to the famous Whitehaven Beach.
The famous Whitehaven Beach suffered under a continuous amphibious and airborn assault. Float plans, helicopters, fast cats, tinnies, kayaks: every form of conveyance known to man was there in abundance. The beach is indeed white and very fine. We confirmed this after swimming ashore, Navy Seal style. It also made nice sand sculptures.
Curiosity satisfied, we swam back to the boat and headed north. Both of the kids were desperate to snorkle Manta Ray Bay on the north coast of Hook Island. The anchorage would probably be too bouncy with the ESE winds, but you never know. So off we went. All the snorkling spots were either untenable or full. Most are provided with moorings which supposed to have a two hour time limit but in practise possession seems to be nine tenths of the law. And so back to Nara which is big enough to handle all comers.
Two HopsWe left Hook Island for Townsville with the notion that we might go overnight if the weather was clement. Instead we got a solid 20 kts from the ESE: first reef weather and a bouncy ride as we surfed down the steep seas. Averaged about 10 kts of boatspeed all day, higer when we hand steered. Otto doesn't steer very well in windvane mode deep downwind (deeper than 90° apparent). With all the surfing, the apparent wind changes too much and Otto blindly chases it instead of waiting for the next wave like a human helmsman would. Picking a wave at the end of a set gives minutes of surfing at 13, 14, 15 knots.
Waves come in sets, forming at the back and moving forward where they gradually die away. Like the top of a tractor tread, the waves move twice as fast as the set that contains them. This is why picking a big wave for a surf often yields a disappointing ride while picking a little one just after several big ones can yield a surf that goes and goes and goes. And suddenly it is over and I look at the log expecting to see 5 or 6 and see that we're still doing 11 knots.
In the afternoon we decide to pull in under Cape Upstart and sleep. This takes us back across the traffic lanes and we have to jybe a couple of times to avoid ships. At one point we have three to keep track of. The last set of jibes puts us further north than we need be so we actually harden up a bit to come in under the cape. The winds were blowing twenty knots steady and I was hand steering. Just a few miles and we're in the lee of the cape. Ahead of us a light resolves gradually into a fishing boat on the same course. "He's probably running in to the bay for the night" I think. We were coming up on him pretty fast, actually really fast 13, 14 knots on the log. We're on a parallel course about 200 meters to the port of him when I lose sight of him in the jib. No worries. No. Worries! He's turned 90 degrees to port. What the hell?! Disgruntled Ozzie gibberish on the radio. No time to talk. We rocket past 100 meters off his bow. Scared the hell out of both of us.
Cape Upstart is an easy night anchorage. Just run in until the depth sounder reads 7 meters and drop anchor. Silence.
The next day is easier but still first reef most of the day. As the sun sets the wind drops off and after dinner we finally get to shake out the reef as we try and pick out the leads against the lights of Townsville.
On our last jybe into Townsville, a kingfisher of some sort made a crash landing on deck. Clearly a land bird, he tried a number of different spots before settling down on the jib sheet in the lee of the cabin. A miserable bundle of wet feathers, he stayed with us until close to Magnetic Island. A close scrape for him: "Glad to help you out, mate."
While named for a magnetic deviation noted by Cook's crew the deviation has never been substantiated and doesn't appear on modern charts. The old salt at the maritime museum reckoned that the "magnetic deviation" was really a compass problem caused by illicit consumption of the alchohol in which the card floated.
AnimalsThe Billabong Wildlife sanctuary offers nearly unlimited animal holding opportunity:
The kids had been looking forward to it ever since they first saw the various animal-holding pictures in a brochure back in Mackay.
DepartureWe spent a week in Townsville. During that time we:
And now we've filled up on diesel and propane, paid the marina bill, cleared out with customs and tomorrow morning we're off. 600 miles of Coral Sea between us and Samarai. The wind is screaming today but forcast to drop lower tomorrow, lower still on Sunday and Monday. Isobars nice and wide. Smooth sailing?
And so we'll be off. A tiny mote of sound and light and hope on a big ocean. La Traviata, extra virgin olive oil, 20 pounds of rice, and an extra first reef line. Well equipped.