Friday, 27 November 2015

Sailing Around Australia; The Alphabet of Boat Names

28/11/2015 The Alphabet of Boat Names

Sitting at Tipplers passage near the Gold Coast on a quiet day watching a few hundred other water craft of all sorts (mainly pesky jet skis and houseboat loads of “schoolies”) go by, I have been thinking about all the different types, makes and models of boats that we have seen on our sailing around Australia adventures.

Then I started thinking of all the boats and boat names that we have either sailed with, shared anchorages with or just merely passed by. So I set myself the challenge t recall a boat name for each letter of the alphabet. Here’s what I came up with;

A -  Acropora (met Peter and Cath in Bundaberg)
B -  Bossa Nova (our fellow fusioneers, Neville and Amanda)
C – Chances (Gary and Anne, at Garry’s Anchorage)
D - Doh!!! Don’t know one starting with D
E – Easy Tiger ( that’s us)
F – Fayze 2 (We met Fud and Faye in Esperance)
H– SHiraz (OK! a point off cos it’s the second letter! Met Stephen and Sharon in Portland)
G – Great Sandy (Never met these people but we have constantly crossed paths in Sydney and Sandy Straits etc…)
I -   It’s Great (Met Tom in Bundaberg)
J –  Jamais Plus (ok haven’t crossed their path but know Ken and Susan)
K - Skellum  (OK! points off here cos it’s the second letter in Paul and Shani’s  cat)
L – Lettin Go ( didn’t meet these people but crossed paths a lot in Whitsunday’s)
M  -Madhatter 2 ( Phil and Leanne, mates from Paynesville)
N – Nope, can’t think of one for N.
O – Ohmless – (We met fellow fusion owners Mike and Chrissy way back)
P – Purrfection (the first Catamaran we ever sailed on)
Q– Aqualibrium (Yeah, I know 2nd letter again. Met Gerry in Paynesville and Whitsundays)
R – Reef Magic (this is the boat our daughter works on out of Cairns).
S – Sapphire -  (Met Richard, Isabelle, Robbie and Rebecca in Robe)
T – One White Tree – (Met Ray in Sydney. Ok, PART of this unusual name begins with T)
U – Urchin ( Brian (b1) and Maree are a third of our bight crossing trio.)
V – la Vida  - (Parked next to a very big boat named this, right now).
W –Water Music (Met Nick and Sue at Garry’s Anchorage)
X – Xtsea -  (We met David in Cairns)
Y – Yarandoo 2 – (met Mike and Sue in Mooloolaba)
Z – Zofia – (Brian b2 and Eva, are a  third of our bight crossing trio)

There you go. That filled in a few hours. 

Before she even had a drink... honest

Anchored outside the tipplers resort.

With a hundred or so other water craft...

Including the odd Aeroplane???
A bit of fun watching this guy trying to land amongst the hundred or so big boats, the jet skis and dinghies all racing around.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Sailing Around Australia; The Common Thread

Mooloolaba, QLD

24/11/2015  The Common Thread.

What does a transport company supervisor have in common with a crime analyst or a phone app and web site designer? How do the web and app designers and a nurse relate to a signage sales manager?

Since the day we bought our sailing catamaran, Easy Tiger, there is one return on our investment that stands out above all other experiences that we have had.  That is coming into contact with really great people that we normally wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet.

Having a boat brought us into a whole new world of experiences and friendships starting with a trip to Quindalup with Wayne and April.
Somewhere we came across a saying that says people will come into our life for a reason, a season or lifetime.  We have found this to be so true during our sailing adventures.  While each port has revealed new faces, stories and experiences, some have lasted as long as we were in port, some have lasted as long as the passage to the next destination and a few have and will last many years.

If you said to me just 4 years ago that I would set off across the Great Australian bight on my own catamaran with just me and Leanne on board, I would have laughed it off. If you then said that I would be in company of a Crime Analyst and a Nurse on their boat and another couple who did phone app design on another boat and all had about the same sailing experience, I would of said that was a crazy proposition. But, we did it. Sharing that crazy adventure formed a real bond that will endure.

From the day we departed Mandurah WA in 2013, we met marine business operators in Esperance, farmers and council CEO’s in Bremer bay, an engineer and a lawyer taking a gap year at Robe. It seems each and every stop on our journey has brought us not only a variation in environment and scenery, but also someone with a different background and story to tell.

Our sailing “family” have had different experiences, challenges, excitement and entertainment since. One has had a major health scare and fortunately is now in recovery and the others had a 20month lay over, getting their adventure underway again last week.

Most people say that they can count true long term friendships in their life on one hand.  Leanne and I were the same. Luckily, we have our close friendships with our “lifers”, Stacey and Ian, April and Wayne back home.

During our sailing adventure we found that our new bonds have been found in the simplest of ways.

Something as simple as putting our phone number on the side of our boat brought us a fireman and a dental hygienist in Adelaide.  Our instant rapport has developed a friendship that we consider will be a lasting treasure.

At the Gipplsand Lakes we were introduced by others to a Police Sergeant and his partner, who are preparing to embark on their own sailing adventure.

Most recently, the simple common thread of having the same make and model of boat has revealed another valued friendship. We have spent nearly six months in company with the Bossa Nova crew, quite un-expectantly yet very enjoyably.

For the money we spent on our catamaran, we could have bought 1 or 2 investment properties, or tucked a very tidy sum away into superannuation. Financially we would have been far better off.  Little did we know that the common thread of boating and sailing adventures would produce such an invaluable benefit in these new friendships.

 Stacey and Ian, "Lifers"
Wayne and April, same.
Our sailing family

Sulls and Sues connected by having our phone number on the side of the boat.

Phil Chappell and Leanne Clingan were introduced to us by Brian and Eva

A fusion of fusions, and a fusion of friends Neville and Amanda, the Bossa Nova crew.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Sailing Around Australia; Mud Crab Adventures

Great Sandy Straits, Queensland

16/11/2105 Crab Adventures

Two craving novices set off in dinghy with 3 new crab nets

While returning through the Great Sandy Straits, We have anchored Easy Tiger at Garry’s Anchorage once more.

This is where I was attacked by sand flies during our trip north. Back then I vowed never to stay at Garry’s anchorage again. Garry could have it all to himself.

Well, you know what happens when you vow never to do something again? You do it again. After leaving Bundaberg there really isn’t another anchorage that will protect us from South East winds. So the weather gods must be rolling around the floor laughing at us, because just as we were about to go past the dreaded Garry’s Anchorage they turned the winds to the south east.    

Fortunately I am prepared. Before I go outdoors I apply with a layer of moisturiser, a layer of baby oil laced with tea tree oil and some antihistamine mild anaesthetic cream, plus a light spray of Aerogard.  This preparation has meant I get strange looks from other humans who question my bathing practices, but has limited sand fly attacks and mosquito bites to about a dozen so far.

During our stay in Bundaberg, we noticed the local boat supplies store had crab nets on sale. We could get 3 Crab nets for $50. It was tempting. We had crab nets on the boat from Mandurah right around to Kangaroo Island, South Australia. We had caught good numbers in Streaky Bay of blue manna (blue swimmers) and a few sand crabs at Kangaroo Island.

But alas, the nets don’t last long, and they were becoming more rust than crab pot and leaving annoying, hard to remove stains wherever they rested on Easy Tiger.

I had enjoyed catching blue swimmer crabs  since I met Leanne. Not being much of a fisherman, mainly through lack of experience and also through a lack of patience and coordination, I found crabbing a lot more enjoyable.

In the early days of our courtship,  I learnt the enjoyment of crabbing by going out with Leanne’s dad, Geoff in his tinnie.

Usually this involved an early morning start. Geoff would back the trailer into the water and then I would wade in till I was waist deep, to release the boat off the trailer. I would then drag the dinghy over to the jetty for Geoff to step in.

Geoff would then drive the dinghy to the secret spot, issuing instructions along about how to handle as  the slimy slippery bait, and how to tie it into the ten or so nets.

Once at the secret spot, along with the ten or so other boats, next task was to drop  the nets into the water. There is a proper way to throw them in. Judging from the exasperated expressions from Geoff,  I threw the nets in the wrong way.  You are supposed to make sure they land away from the dinghy (so that you don’t get the net or the attached rope and float wrapped around the propeller. It’s really hard to get off and usually wrecks the crab net, ask me how I know!). Also you need them to land on the ocean floor flat or you don’t catch too many crabs.

After getting the nets into the water (and repairing 2) we waited a half an hour or so and then Geoff drove the boat over to the first net, issuing instructions on how to pull the nets up. By the time we had pulled all the nets up, I just about had the knack for it. Luckily for the crabs, quite a few good ones got away while I was mastering the art of pulling the nets up and into the boat quickly and in a smooth motion.

Second, third and fourth time around to each net and I was just about good at pulling the nets up and Geoff was getting much better at the instructions which were coming through a lot louder and more descriptive.

Somehow though we managed to catch a dozen or so sized and legal crabs.  Sitting up the front of the boat crashing through the waves all the way back to the jetty, saw me drenched to the bone. Again I  plunged in again up to my nether regions to get the boat on to the trailer.

On arrival back at the Giles residence I washed down the boat while Geoff boiled the crabs.  Then the feeding frenzy began.

The Giles family can mow down a dozen crabs in a matter of minutes. While I fiddle farted around trying to extract teaspoon size portions of meat from the tough shell, the sound like a tree loppers mulching machine echoed around the table, as crab parts were drained of their offerings.

Now, looking at the crab pot sale in Bundaberg, those memories came back to me. However, the hunter in me rose to the surface.  Lets go crabbing.

After arriving in Garry’s anchorage, I got out the nets and we studied them carefully. The Queensland government restrictions and laws regarding crab nets are vastly different form Western Australia. The nets are quite different, but seem quite a lot more robust.  So it took a bit of getting our head around how to put the bait in and then how to get the crabs out should we catch some.

Neville and Amanda had stored the bait on Bossa Nova. It was a Mackerel Tuna that Leanne had caught a few days before. Perfect crab bait. The girls decided that crabbing was mans work, so Neville and I headed out in Easy tiger’s dinghy.

I sort of thought that if I was a crab, I would hang around the mangroves, rather than open water, so that’s where we headed. There are small mangrove “islands” at Garry’s anchorage, so we dropped our pots on the outer side of the first Island.

I am not sure if it just didn’t feel like the right spot, or the fact that the crab pot was only half covered with water, that made us decide to try another spot. Second place seemed the right one and we left the pots there to settle in for the night. Plus, at low tide we could not get back there anyway.

Next morning we set off at high tide full of anticipation. The first pot we pulled up had four crabs in it, two looking like a good size. We then had to tip the pot upside down and shake vigorously to get the crabs into our bucket. Unfortunately for Neville they fell out of the pot OK but landed in the bottom of the dinghy very close to his feet. While the crabs dashed for cover, Neville’s feet dashed for higher ground.   

After much scrambling around I got them into the bucket. Alas only 2 were keepers. One mud crab was just on size and the other was a blue swimmer.

Unfortunately we couldn’t find the third pot, so the report back to the girls was that we had caught an edible crab and lost one crab pot. Not really a successful day.

At low tide we went off again in search of our third pot. We found it tangled in the roots of a mangrove tree. After untying the rope we pulled up the pot and voila…the mother load.

5 good sized mudcrabs were gorging themselves on the little bit of bait left in the bottom of the crab net. Again hysterics were had as we tried to pick up angry mud crabs that were scrambling around in the bottom of the dinghy. After tossing the females back were were left with three good sized crabs.

This mornings harvest yielded another one. So this afternoon the four of us had a mud crab feast.

Neville  commented that $50 for 3 crab pots, the $55 for the bag to keep them in and the bit of fuel and bait was well worth it for entertainment value alone.

But, that was before he ate the fresh, just cooked, melt in your mouth steamed mud crab.

Tip up the net and shake vigorously to get them out of the net.

Then the trick is to get them out of the bottom of the boat and into the bucket.

The ones with only one claw are far easier to handle.

Sitting quietly in the bucket, until they see you.

The claws are a meal in them selves.

Lesson learned. Tongs are not really great tools for wrangling mud crabs.
Who's got who here?
The two crab novices with the results on the board...well the counter

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Sailing Around Australia; Revisiting the 'berg

Bundaberg, Queensland

12/11/2015 Revisiting the ‘berg

We stayed at Bundaberg for a few days on our journey north. So being held captive  in Bundaberg for the past week by the weather, we have taken the time to do some of the things we missed last time, as well as found some new things to do around the area.

Thinking that we would only be at “Bundy” for a couple of days we suggested to our companions, Bossa Nova, that we would just anchor in the river. But it wasn’t long before we got sick of the jostling of Easy Tiger by the tidal current going one way and the wind pushing the other.

After looking at the weather forecast and seeing conditions would not let us sail south for a week or more, a quick phone call was made to the Port Bundaberg Marina and we moved into a pen the next morning.

As we were not used to being in one place for more than a couple of days, the thought of being stuck in Bundaberg marina for a week was quite daunting.

Last visit to “the ‘berg” we did the usual shopping tasks and visited the Ginger Beer factory, (I am one of their best customers) which we thought was a bit lame.

The marina has hire cars that are quite affordable for a day, so with Neville and Amanda, we set off in a hire car with the name of Heidi proudly displayed on the back.

We went to the small town of Bargara, an outlying suburb of Bundaberg. This was a nice enough small settlement, with a couple or restaurants near the beach. I am sure most beach side places have the same sort of restaurants. As you would expect the menu was full of degistated and deconstructed items. Me, I was happy with a steak burger minus tomato.

After lunch, the four of us headed off in Heidi, to look at a couple of the other outlying towns surrounding Bundaberg.

At Elliot Heads, Neville and I got a little excited to see a half a dozen or so yachts and catamarans anchored about a mile up river from the heads. Switching Heidi into 4wd, we wound our way along a gravel pathway to get closer to the boats lying quietly on anchor.

We certainly hadn’t found anchoring utopia. There seemed a nasty, shallow bar crossing, narrow and shallow channels leading to a collection of quite small, old boats. Later I couldn’t find any reference to this place in the sailing guides that we have, so I wiped it off the possible anchoring list.

Passing back through Bargara we then went to Mon Repos. Here we saw a sign for the Turtle Conservation Centre. Amanda googled and found that they did Turtle watching tours.  We all hoped that it would be better than our turtle sighting events we had at Lady Musgrave.

Back at the Marina. Many of the other yachties with their travels on hold due to the weather, were headed to the Burnett Heads Pub for tea in the courtesy bus. We decided to tag along and had a good night talking boats, destinations and future plans with some different folk.

It was generally decided though, that while most had plans for 2016 they were all written in the sand at low tide. In other words all plans were subject (and highly likely) to change. Also discussed at great length were the main dangers to an extended sailing program. These main hazards were house rent, sharemarket variances and Grandchildren (particularly the arrival of same).

Wednesday was Neville’s day. Neville, being a dedicated bundy and coke drinker, was excited as we set off for a tour of the rum distillery. For those that don’t know, Bundaberg is home to a large rum distillery where they make rum, Bundaberg Rum. The rum named after the town is famous in our country (where 96% is sold) and New Zealand (where 3% is sold) and unheard of everywhere else.

Bundy rum as it is affectionately known by it’s loyal customers, is an example of good old Aussie ingenuity.

Back in 1888 the sugar industry in the Bundaberg area was in full swing. As they crushed the cane to produce the sugar, the main by-product, molasses, just ran down the street into the river.

Mr Buss, who owned a dozen or so sugar plantations, got together with a few other locals and said, “hey… what if we could turn the wasted molasses into rum”. Turning a waste product into something you can drink and party with is an easy sell, I reckon.

Pretty much that’s what they are doing to this day. Turning molasses produced from the sugar milling process into rum.

As with most of these factory tours, the most interesting part is in the free tasting. Leanne was delighted yet again to have a tea total husband. She gets a designated driver, plus she got my 2 free samples. They were all downed with exclamations of how nice they were. Funny enough, the fourth sample was declared really really really nishe.  Once we got back to the boat though, someone had to have a lie down. I’ll give you a tip… it wasn’t the designated driver.

Wednesday night we toddled off to the Mon Repos Turtle centre in the hope of seeing the mother turtles emerge from the surf, crawl up the beach, dig a hole and lay some eggs.

We had a couple of attempts to witness this at Lady Musgrave. There we saw plenty of tracks leading from the water to nests in the sand and plenty of turtle porn as the turtles were all happily mating in and around the reefs surrounding the lagoon. Our 2 trips to the island in the dead of night proved fruitless though. No turtles wanted us to witness their reproduction efforts. Can’t say I blame them for that.

After another “specials”night at the Burnett Heads ($12 schnitzels) we hopped into Heidi the hire car and trundled off to Mon Repos.  We joined the queue and waited. We got allocated to group one, then we waited. We circulated in the visitors centre looking at turtle bones, turtle pictures, stuffed turtles and written content about…turtles. Then we waited.

An announcement was made that a movie would be shown in 5 minutes. The movie all about the breeding and the conservation of loggerhead turtles was shown. The we waited. Neville and Leanne made a trip to the food van. Then we waited.

Finally, Group 1 was asked to assemble at the walkway. We were lectured gain about lights or noise. Then we scurried down the walkway on to the beach. It was quite dark. There were a couple of flashing lights about a hundred metres up the beach. This was the only sign of life. We were then reminded about lights and noise and not to rush. Stay behind the ranger. Off we set again, this time walking about 200 metres along the beach, excited by the fact that there was a mother loggerhead about to emerge form the water and lay 120 or so eggs into her nest.

I stuck as close as I could to the ranger lady, mimicking her steps. Thinking this would be a good way to be at the front of the group and get the best view of mum turtle. Suddenly she said stop, throwing up her hands and nearly giving me  backhander. I stopped, but 50 other people didn’t. Somehow they rushed past me and instantly managed to form a circle around a huge loggerhead turtle, who was making way along the sand…towards the water.

Three or four ranger types jumped in front of the turtle and started wrestling it around. I did see a bit of irony here. We weren’t allowed flash photography or to make any noise what so ever, yet they were gang tackling Mrs urtle?  Turns out the rangers were trying to read the turtles identity tag.

The rangers were very apologetic about the fact that the turtle was not going to lay tonight. We would be the first group called back to the beach when another prospect emerged from the cold frothy water. So as the non layer returned to the deep, we returned to the “interpretive centre” stage.

We sat on the hard brick bench seat for another hour and half while one of the rangers did his best to stretch a ten minute talk about turtles out to a couple of hours. He was definitely hoping that another sighting would be made sooner rather than later, because by the time he got to travel patterns of the Australian Green Turtle he had lost most of the crowd, many of whom were texting and even playing cards on their phones.

Next time someone suggests we go and watch the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, I’ll take some convincing.

The turtles have my sympathy.  Imagine all you want to do is what comes naturally to all beings.  Having to scramble out of the freezing ocean, in the dark and commando crawl up a beach of scratchy coral and then bury themselves in the sand to finally “do their thing” is bad enough, but then there are four people trying to wrestle with them and another 50 or so wanting to watch and take pictures. That would sort of kill the mood I reckon.

In anticipation departing the ‘berg early tomorrow, we are tidying up and packing away. Looks like a couple of days where the weather will mean we can sail down to Fraser Island for a week or so. 

There will also be anchorages that we visited on our trip north, but as the ‘berg has proved there will be things at each place that we missed before, so here’s hoping.

The distillery at Bundaberg since 1888. 
Neville is one of there best customers and Leanne smashed the tastings!

A polar bear, to advertise a rum made in northern Queensland Australia...of course!

The star attraction at Mon Repos. Except they don't often turn up!