Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Episode 1 Brisbane to Cairns


In the lead up to leaving Brisbane we received many comments about what we are about to undertake.
“Living the Dream” many said.
Chris from NT said “Wow, lifestyles of the rich and famous!”.
A few of the girls said   “Cocktails under the palm trees every night and lazing around reading books all day – what a life”.

Well let me tell you that the cruising life is not what a lot of people think. It’s downright hard work!
For sure the good days are really good but the bad days can be bloody terrible.

And just to set the record straight:
Not all dreams are good ones – some are nightmares.
The Rich and Famous would not have put up with the conditions dished out to us in the first 2 weeks.
Our Bottle of Wild Turkey which was a present from Alan and Donna is still ¾ full and Paul is still struggling to find time to get past Chapter 1 of his new Clive Cussler Book!!!!

After a very hectic last weekend working at ODEX the diving expo, Paul finally finished work at 9pm on the Sunday Night. Lisa had finished up the week before and spent the week provisioning the boat. She put A LOT of food onboard with enough long term stores for over 3 months…

On the Monday we spent the day running around like headless chooks doing all the last minute things and at 6pm that night we sold our car to friends Alan and Donna and said goodbye to our closest friends in Brisbane Chris & Helen and daughters Sophie & Alice.
We said we were going the next morning however the wind and weather was still wrong, we were so tired and the boat was still a mess so we packed and cleaned on Tuesday and set sail on the tide at 9:30am on Wednesday.
We had a great spinnaker run across the bay and an awesome sail up Moreton Island reaching at 9 knots (with some current help…). We were stoked at these speeds as the boat was heavy with all the provisions and over 2.5 tonnes of water and fuel onboard.

At 9pm the wind died off Mooloolaba and with Northerly winds forecast for the next 3 days we decided to Motor overnight to Fraser Island and crossed Wide Bay Bar at first light the next morning.
We stayed just south of Garry’s Anchorage for 3 days to wait for the northerlies to pass and relax – or so we thought …..
We had four seasons for each day here and had some great times and some scary ones too.
On Friday Morning Paul woke at 5am to some wind building and a sprinkling of rain. He checked the BOM radar and to his shock saw a very intense storm heading straight for us. 5 minutes later we got smashed with sideways rain and gusts to 40 knots and viz to only about 20m. We started the engine just in case we started drifting towards the shore and just had to wait it out and hope our anchor held. An hour later the sun was shining and we spent the day fitting out our new smaller inflatable now nicknamed “Dink” and took her on her maiden fishing trip.

On Saturday we went fishing again and found a small creek which we went and explored and to our surprise went for a long way into the island.

That night we had a wild electrical storm that hit us ( and everyone else from Brisbane to Gympie) and gave us an awesome lightening show.

Standing on a soaking wet steel deck in bare feet with an Alloy Mast that sticks 18m into the sky like a giant lightening rod is not a good combination during a fierce electrical storm.

This is what it looked like on the radar. We were just below the “U” in Maryborough when it hit. We are quite proud of our Lightening Photo.

On Sunday the Northerly winds dropped and left us with a beaut day of clear skies, hot weather and no wind and we decided to head North and go thru the Great Sandy Straights and into Hervey Bay. This is Paul’s most dreaded part of the trip as the straights are very shallow and must only be crossed at dead high tide. Lorelei is a big vessel to transit through here and last time Paul came thru he ran aground. Lisa took the controls and we got through just fine with the shallowest part being only 0.8m under our keel.
We sailed north past kingfisher bay and saw the damage the bushfires had done and anchored for the night at Platypus bay. We saw an adult Dingo with her 3 Dingo pups on the beach which was very cool. The sunset that night was amazing.

On Monday morning the Southerly was forecast to hit with guests to 30 knots. We knew it was coming and were in a great anchorage for it. The winds were due to stay SE over 20 knots for 6 days so we decide to let the front go thru and head north on Tuesday. We spent the day all alone on the beach, walking and Paul got to test some of his new kite boarding gear.

Tuesday morning was still very windy with guests over 30 knots and ugly skies so we postponed the trip north another 24 hours to Wednesday.
On Wednesday we woke to light winds and started thinking oh no what have we done, we’ve missed the window. We set sail anyway under spinnaker and over the next 3 hours the winds slowly increased. We had to do 3 sail changes in that time and at 10am we got smashed by an ugly squall that hit us with rain and wind guests reaching 40 knots. Lisa had the helm right over but the boat was way overpowered and we couldn’t stop rolling up into the wind making things worse. The boat was healing past 45 degrees and we could hear things downstairs getting thrown around. We furled in the headsail and rode it out. 20 minutes later and the sun was out, the winds back to a consistent 20-25 knots and off we went again. The only drama was downstairs looked like a bomb had hit it and the headsail had copped a hammering. We had ripped a 6 meter section of the navy UV strip off the edge of the sail and it was flapping about. Oh well, it still worked – just looked ugly. So now next stop was going to be to Airlie Beach where Doyles Sails, who made the sail, could repair it.

The further north we went the rougher it got however we knew we had to keep going as the forecast was for abating winds & seas and a much better night and next day – or so we thought…
At 5pm we got the updated weather and it was not good with no change and the same conditions for the next 3 days. We were 115nm from land and off the Swains Reefs so all we could do was keep going. It was a very rough and uncomfortable night and sleeping was impossible. For the first time onboard Lorelei Paul spewed – 4 times!!
The upside was we were flying along averaging around 9 knots.
At dawn we gybed and the motion was a little better allowing for some sleep until having to gybe again at dusk and put us on the same angle as the night before. It was not as rough but still not good, however we were still rocketing along.

At 9pm Lisa was asleep on the floor of the cockpit in a sleeping bag when a large rogue wave smashed into the back quarter of the boat. It put a wall of water over the entire back of the boat and filled the cockpit in seconds. Lisa was completely submerged! Oh well no more sleep again for another night…  Luckily she has a few sets of wet weather gear.
At 10am the next day Paul checked to find we had just done a 24 hour run of 212nm – our first one ever over 200nm. The 200nm a day mark is a big thing for yachties and whilst a fully crewed, carbon fibre race boat could smash this, for a 2-up team on a cruising boat this is a big feat, particularly for a fully laden 28 ton steel cruising yacht with 2 weary crew and a dodgy Headsail!
Friday was our 16th Wedding anniversary. No dining out and chocolates this year. Friday night was the last night sailing and we spent the night weaving though the lower Whitsunday Islands which was kind of fun but a bit nerve racking at times. Luckily we know this area pretty well.
At 4:30am on Saturday we sailed right up to the front of the Whitsunday Sailing Club and dropped the anchor for a well deserved meal and some sleep. The trip was our fastest north ever and we did over 500nm in 68 hours.

We spent the next 3 days in Airlie cleaning up, catching up on food and sleep and getting the sail repaired. Charles from Doyles dropped back our sail on Tuesday and we sailed out at 1pm that afternoon.
About 2 hours into the trip we came across a 15ft fibreglass runabout with 1 guy in it. He had no fuel, no mobile phone, no VHF radio and no safety gear – what an idiot. He wanted us to give him fuel for him to get home. We were not prepared to do this and with 4 sails up it would be at least 15mins for us to get them down/furled to help so instead we rang the VMR (Marine Rescue) and let them handle it.
That arvo we sailed past Gloucester Island at dusk and enjoyed a beautiful deep orange Sunset.

The wind for the next 2 days was light but consistent and we plodded up the coast right on the rhumb line at a leisurely 3-5 knots. The seas were flat and we were able to cook, eat, sleep and clean. Paul still not knowing how to relax decided to polish all the Stainless Steel on the boat which took him about 12 hours over 3 days. We got some pretty heavy container ship traffic on the way north. Not fun at night !!!

Off Lucinda and the Southern End of the Hinchinbrook Area the wind finally dropped off to a flat calm and glassy sea. With no option we started the motor and set the trolling rods up as the water was a deep blue colour. Within 1 hour we had boated our first trolled fish of the trip, a nice Spanish Mackerel. We ate half over 3 days and smoked and cryo-vaced the other half for later.

That arvo we stopped at Dunk Island and stayed for 2 days. The once beautiful Island and Resort is now in Ruins after Cyclone Yasi ripped through it last year and caused widespread destruction. Looking back to Wongaling Beach on the mainland and you could also see large areas of trees missing and large landslides and slippages on the steeper hills.
The resort is still not running as apparently there is an issue over the insurance claim.  This is all that’s left of the wharf. Note the missing sections closer to the beach.

On Saturday we pushed off again and made it too Cairns just on dark that night. The total trip distance sailed was just over 950nm from Brisbane which roughly equates to 60nm average for every day since we left. No wonder Lisa still thinks it is like Hogger boot camp! Paul has promised to slow down to under 100mph next week.
On Sunday we were lucky enough to bump into long time cruising friends Keith and Patti onboard SV Speranza at Marlin Marina. We stopped for drinks on their boat on Sunday Arvo and had a great catch up time.

This is the night time view from our anchorage in Trinity Inlet, Cairns

Paul’s Dad George and family friend Keith fly in on Monday for approx. 4 weeks onboard. We plan to sail slowly North to Lizard Island and stop at the Ribbon Reefs along the way and dive and Snorkel Paul’s favourite spots from his “Spirit of Freedom” days ( and do some fishing and spearing too…..).
Stay tuned for all the red hot action and hopefully some groovy underwater photos in Part 2 “Cairns to Lizard Island and the Ribbons”.

Cheers for now.
Paul and Lisa

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