Cruising Queensland the second time, 2012.




Back in Manly for Midnight Blue's annual birthday and clean up party. We hoped to do it all in two weeks and head off to resume our northward quest.

Last year we'd hoped that our initial sorting out of the boat would take about that time and it took six months. And odd moments of struggle and angst. And quite a lot of debugging for most of the first year of cruising.

This time the clean up party went really well and after two weeks the boat was shiny and spick. Antifouled, polished, many items of maintenance and small improvements too numerous to mention, you may be relieved to hear. Tina got the ok from her hip surgeon, we each had some skin cancers dealt to, loaded up the cupboards and ta ta Manly bye bye.

Manly harbour from our back porch while we were out of the water.


That was the middle of April. The weather had suddenly cooled down and the sky was raining quite a bit. A big swell was forecast a couple of days hence from some other weather out in the Pacific and we thought that we might make a dash up to the Wide Bay Bar to get over it before the swell arrived. And then the winds were forecast to ease for a while and we thought that maybe if we continued dashing and went straight to Lady Musgrave Island it might stay calm enough to stay there a few days.

So we did. First night out at Mooloolaba, then across the bar and camped behind Fraser Island, up to the top of Fraser Is. for another camp and then straight though to Lady Musgrave. We had a look at Lady Elliot Island on the way but didn't like the look of the anchoring options and carried right on. So that was 250 miles (465 km) in 4 days, not bad for (nearly all) daylight sailing.

Since then the swell has been too high to get over the bar and looks like staying that way for the foreseeable so we feel like we've gained a big head start on our cruise.

On the way from the top of Fraser to Lady Elliot we experienced our first taste of an unblemished 360 degree ocean horizon. There has always previously for us been at least some dim hill in the distant far. The experience was oddly comforting. The ocean seemed benign. There are lots of birds at sea. Terns, gannets, shearwaters and whatnot, wheeling about and swooping between the waves, looking like they are having fun.

 Anthropomorphising can be fun.

 Benign is only one of the ocean's moods, to be sure, but knowing that we were only there for a few hours, not long enough for the mood to change much, made it easy to feel smug. Hugely grateful, also, to be alive at this time when the technology available to us, concentrated in this amazing contraption we are travelling in, gives us the information and communications which enable us to pick our times to travel the oceans with a pretty good understanding of how its moods will be, for a few days at a time.

At the time of unblemished horizon with attendant gratitude etc. we were also enjoying sailing with our new spinnaker, as we did for about half of the four day dash. The previous spinnaker died. Spinnaker technology has come a long way since the previous one was made and the new one is much easier to fly, and douse, works at a greater range of wind angles and is a source of great pleasure to us. And it's blue, of course.

Lady Musgrave. Jewell of the southern extremity of the Great Barrier Reef.

A prettily green treed coral cay island and a lagoon about a mile in diameter surrounded by a fringing reef. A gap in the reef allows the tide to rush in and out and boats also. A dozen or so boats anchored in the lagoon each feeling more pleased with themselves than the other. We're at Lady Musgrave. Chuckle ho hee. We were so pleased with ourselves we couldn't immediately decide whether first to walk around the island, go snorkelling or try to catch a fish. Having not stepped off the boat for several days because of all the dashing the walk idea won and we set off in the dinghy. Half way across the lagoon the dinghy motor (just serviced) became ill. We turned around and limped back to the boat. You know what an ill motor limps like; cough, splutter, sick, sicker, dead.

Sounded like blocked carby jets. Now, see, I spared you the details of the maintenance program and the spinnaker replacement so you'll just have to hear about the dinghy.

Hoisted dinghy to its spot between the hulls at the stern, pulled its motor end over next to the barby, removed the barby so I could get at the motor and took off its cover. Look at that. The choke is stuck on. Hooray. That's easy. I'd asked the service crew to get the choke operating because it hadn't been and they had unseized it. Only now it had reseized. No problem. Re-unseize, cover back on, replace barby, dinghy back in the water, dead.    Alert readers will recall that we had a similar encounter last year with dinghy disease of a different sort but also occurring right there at Lady Musgrave and just after getting it serviced. So cyclical catastrophe theories were starting to infect our minds at this point. 

Every silver lining has its cloud. Re-hoisted etc. and prepared to disassemble carby. Not the easiest thing hanging above the salty sea. If I stuff this one up our cloud will turn into a thunderstorm and drive us back into port. Grumble, mutter, grouch, it was running fine before we got it serviced. Mongrel drongos have sabotaged our cruise, etc. So I rigged a tarp under the motor to catch any bits that might try to escape and commenced disassembling. It all went fine. A tiny bit of gickage was removed from one of the carby jets, reassembled, unhoisted, etc., purred like a fat kitten. We're back on the program. Let's go snorkelling. Our cloud has shrivelled away into the sunny sky. More mood swings than a three year old's birthday party with too many lollies but now we're grinning again.

A few days later the grin has acquired a glint. The glint is due to the fact that we have been dining on Coral Trout, Gold Spotted Sweetlip and Slate Bream. I had got fed up with faffing around with lines and lures and hooks and tangles which was producing no fish and resulting rather in slowly lining the entire bottom of the ocean with lost and snagged lures. And I bought a little pneumatic spear gun. Still a fair bit of faffing around, and tangles, and not always elegant or dignified, but now we are capturing fish. Very satisfying. Much prefer the activity of swimming around in the fishy world and choosing what to hunt to that of sitting in a boat attempting to understand fish psychiatry which is what you have to master to have success with choosing which bait or lure to dangle on which line in what place for how long at what time without any feedback about the efficacy of your choices except the continuous evidence, in the form of zero catch, that you are doing something wrong. Whereas a spear is retrieved after being shot at a tasty looking fish either with that fish impaled on it or not. Simple. No psychiatry involved, apart from the karmic implications of murder, which I cleverly avoid by subscribing to a cosmology that has no retribution clause for hunting / gathering / gleaning.





Pancake Creek         25 April



Which cosmology would that be, did someone ask?

Well as Leonard Cohen said in his concert at McLaren Vale , I've studied deeply in the philosophies and the religions but cheerfulness kept breaking through.

The winds came up above our threshold for being at sea in a reef lagoon and we scuttled into Pancake Creek.     This is a popular anchorage for northward cruisers, being the first sheltered stop north of Bundaberg accessible in any tide, and there are always a few boats here. And a few plus some if there is a blow forecast, as now. Our plan is to wait until the blow settles and then go back out to the reef and hop up along it, island to reef to lagoon, if the weather stays calm enough.


We took a stroll up to the Bustard Head lighthouse, talking to the bush and the birds and the lizards and the spiders as we went. On our return to the beach there was a gentleman there giving his dinghy a scrub.  Within a short time we heard how he had just anchored  after  many travails in the bay just south of here, the travails including getting swamped by a big wave going in to the river down there. And we heard  about so many and various of his exploits and opinions in such a short time that it began to seem that perhaps he was a bit starved for human company. This was confirmed when he said as much and invited himself around to our joint for drinks half an hour hence. We said OK, sure, while thinking that this could get gruesome and wondering what sailors' etiquette allowed for getting rid of blowhards. But shouldn't we be clasping him to our bosom, having somehow persuaded that bosom to produce at least a trickle of the milk of human kindness? These conflicting thoughts of how to play it with our new acquaintance were jostling as we pointed our dinghy back towards Midnight Blue. On the way we were waved over to Speranza, where Keith and Patti said that there would be a gathering of the current Pancake Creek sailing population for sundowners on the sand spit in half an hour. Beauty, we said, that'll spread the load.

Well new mate turns out to qualify for the label blowhard, but can probably be more precisely called an oaf. Within five minutes of arriving at the gathering he'd managed to offend half the women present, knocked over the table holding everyone's drinks and nibbles and divided the group into a camp prepared to suffer him declaiming and the rest, who separately engaged in the normal process of swapping stories, more or less taking turns. Not a dull, malicious or dangerous oaf, just an incorrigibly clumsy one. How far in the accommodation of an oaf can graciousness and forbearance be extended? Civil society would like to say indefinitely. I say it depends.

Next day it got quite windy. One boat dragged anchor and another coming into the anchorage had difficulties, appearing not to be able to motor. Both were given immediate assistance, although no motor managed to ground itself on a sandbank, assistance notwithstanding, and had to wait out the tide lying down on its side. A third boat, New Mate's, also dragged anchor slowly back out of the anchorage during the course of the afternoon and, curiously, was not assisted, although various parties were watching and ready to alert new mate, who was aboard but seemingly oblivious, if he should get close to the reef. He became alert just in time and re-anchored himself. Social dynamics are fascinating. Load a laughs, this cruising.                                                 


Fitzroy Reef at low tide. At high tide there is nothing above the water.

We sailed out to Fitzroy with the jolly crew from Pancake. A gay little armada. The only thing I have against our sweet poofter brethren (and there is no need for anybody to take offence because that word is used affectionately not pejoratively) is their appropriation of that lovely word "gay" from general usage. I doubt if they're actually gayer more of the time than anyone else. Some of us poor boring heteros might like to be allowed to be gay now and then too.

Travelling in company is the only way to get photos of oneself under sail.

Here we are with our new spinnaker.

Fitzroy is much like Lady Musgrave but without the island. No walking. More swimming.  Plenty Coral Trout. After a few days our company set off northward and we were left alone in the ocean. And whereas at Lady Musgrave we'd had intermittent phone and internet contact there was none at Fitzroy and we were reduced to radio contact only. Fine. A little taste of how it would be to cross an ocean. A fairly sanitised taste because we're only there in calm weather and have no intention of being there in any other kind. After a few more days the wind blew up and we retreated to the coast.

Nearly a month since we left Manly so we went into Gladstone to get some fresh eatables. There is a lot of industry in Gladstone and it's noisy and everything gets grimy with coal dust so we didn't stay long.  We are keen to stay out of marinas more than we did last year, at which we are doing better so far.


Gladstone Botanic Gardens

Boat mascots

Tina found a Baglama in Manly. A long necked lute. She finds it easier to play than her classical guitar. It has an eastern european twangy tone and as she's learning what can be done with it the sounds are quite nice and I hope she continues.  My musical career hasn't started yet. The plan is that if I break my leg then I'll buy a trombone, but so far no leg has broke.

Back to Yellow Patch, an estuary just behind Cape Capricorn. Beautiful. A bloke anchored nearby was catching little fish under his boat. He was accumulating a few for crab bait, I reckoned, and then he held one up and turned it this way and that and caught the attention of a Brahminy Kite. He threw the fish out behind and the bird did glide down and scoop up that fish as graceful as could be.  That was such a fine entertainment that we went over to make the acquaintance of that bloke and his wife. As I suspected, they were highly skilled fishers and for the next week we laboured mightily under their tutelage capturing quantities of mud crabs and whiting far beyond our previous experience. So many mud crabs that I conducted an experiment to see whether it would be possible if I had enough crabs and the right assortment of bowls, buckets and implements at hand to extract crab meat in such amounts as to be able to set some aside for purposes other than immediate scoffing. The experiment was successful and I was able later to make a pumpkin and crab soup, the most perfect thing I have ever built.   


Yellow Patch, Cape Capricorn          25 May      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


It's blowing 30 to 35 knots offshore from here these few days, which makes the ocean not a suitable place for ladies and gentlemen to be just now, so we have motored up the Fitzroy River to Rockhampton to pass the time. Motored straight on to a sandbank at one (only) point and were temporarily embarrassed. The river channel has been altered by floods and there's no real commercial traffic on the river so it hasn't been marked very clearly so it pays to travel on a rising tide to make it easier to get unstuck.

Does this look cold? It's getting cold. Having to put a blanket on at night and wear long trousers in the morning.

Speaking of sticking.  Walking down the street, Tina said Hey, nice debrittlements. See, we have a friend who used to have a foundry in Wagga, making all sorts of ironwork including lacework like on the pub here. So many people would ask about the little frilly bits that go on the verandah you know in the corner between the post and the fascia that he took to giving them a name, debrittlements, so that he could help out when the people started into trying to describe the frilly bits in the you know and he could say, Yes, debrittlements, we have type a, b and c. Pretty soon it stuck and people would ring in their orders for debrittlements, picking them out from the debrittlement catalogue.

Conventions can be fairly easily established, especially if you have a product that people want. In a few years we trained up the architectural fraternity in SA to speak of stabilised earth rather than rammed earth. If you march off down the road looking like you know what you're doing a few people will follow. People love to show that they're up with the current jargon. This is about as far as we'll go, however, with the fashionable fallacy that you can do / have whatever you want if you just believe in it enough. If you trust in yourself and believe in your dreams and follow your star you'll get beaten by people who worked hard and learnt things and weren't so lazy.

Rockhampton Botanic Gardens


I rang Telstra with a few queries. My call was answered immediately by a chap whose first language seemed to be Oz English. He dealt with my queries and gave me satisfaction on each point. I was so astounded I congratulated him on facilitating the best call to Telstra ever made in the history of Telstra. Then after such an auspicious beginning to the day we decided to make an adventure to the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens. A call to Rocky Cabs was answered immediately by a person whose first language seemed to be English and within minutes a taxi turned up. The driver was a forty-ish local bloke who spoke very fine English and employed it to regale us with interesting stories about the area, delivered with some pride. The Fitzroy River catchment is the second largest river catchment in the country and produces 80% of the nation's cattle.  The large number of coal mines in the basin keep the wheels of employment and business whizzing and make Gladstone currently the biggest port, by tonnage, in the world. Gillard's gang of phoney class war warriors won't get many votes here. That sort of stuff.  We were so pleased we gave him an eighty cent tip and said, Boy, this day is going really well.

The gardens were the best we've seen in Queensland and we spent several hours wandering around there. When we'd had enough we tried for another taxi to get home and had a different experience. Rocky Cabs took 20 minutes to answer the phone. The taxi came pretty quickly after that but the driver was thirty-ish and had little interest in English or in responding to our fumbling attempts at using it as a bridge between his world and ours anyway and was more interested in that kind of music which, lacking tone, melody or rhythm, would seem to have no purpose other than to annoy those of us who weren't raised on it. So we just rode in the cab and delivered no tip at all. Sod him. We know what kind of people we like and what they are is friendly.


We are now at Wreck Bay, on the eastern side of Great Keppel Island, because there is a westerly blowing. After a fine meal of Coral Trout with a salad of spinach, pear, tomato, spring onions, pine nuts, blanched broccoli, couscous, balsamic and so forth, assisted in its passage down our necks by an adequate sav. blanc, we were delighted to see a red moon rising out of the ocean. Well, reddish orange, anyway. Attempts at photography failed. That's something, with the exception of the salad, that doesn't happen in South Australia. Red moon rising out of the ocean, I mean, not failure.  You can see a moon like that, I suppose, from the western side of Spencers Gulf.  It's coming to a weighing up of relative advantages of being here or there. We think we're on our way back there; it just seems to be taking quite a while because we keep going the wrong way because it's pretty nice up here.

Sailors' Lookout on Great Keppel Island.

Great Keppel seems to be privately managed and maintained. Walking paths are signed in a distinctly un-National Parks style, with painted stones for way markers and random poetry along the tracks. It's kind of gay.



There will now be a(n) hiatus.

We are going to leave the boat in Keppel Bay Marina and go to inspect the north west corner of the Excited States.  Tina's son and his wife have been working in Oregon but will be leaving and returning to Adelaide in a while so we'll go and have a look around there before they do.

We're not taking a laptop so won't be able to post anything on this site but will take an ipad so will be able to write if anything should occur to inspire writing, and store photos, so something might appear here after we return in late July. 


Great Keppel Island          7 June                      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


We're back.

There is a bit of story about the US trip at   Pacific North West of North America

We're just arriving in the Whitsundays after some great sailing up from Rosslyn Bay and some fishing and crabbing in Island Head Creek on the way.


Lindeman Island Resort  (all shut down and deserted).                 7 August          -------------------------------------------------------------------



My writing juices seem to have dried up these last few weeks since the US trip. Maybe because we've been having such a good time. Cruising in Queensland is hard to beat when the weather is good, and the weather has been very good. Midnight Blue has been behaving very well. Nothing to grumble, nothing to say. The artist does his best work when starving in a garret. Not that I am having any pretensions to artistry, but maybe a bit of adversity or inconvenience is more of a stimulant, to the urge to describe and record, than pleasure and contentment. And going on about how good a time one is having is a bit like gloating.

We had a couple of cloudy days and even a bit of light rain recently. Maybe that was enough adversity to fuel up a bit of a story.

We are at Gloucester Island for the annual Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club "Rendezvous". More generally known as the shaggers show. The SICYC is an association of cruising boaties with the primary purpose of facilitating social intercourse amongst them.

The story goes that the bloke who founded it was a member of a local club, maybe the Whitsunday Sailing Club, and was visiting some yacht club in NZ which came on a bit snooty. They wouldn't allow him reciprocal visiting privileges because he was merely a member of WSC and not an office bearer. So he founded SICYC in which there are no ordinary members and no Commodore because everybody is a Vice Commodore. Of wherever they nominate. For life. So I am the Vice Commodore of Port Willunga (Port Willy) and Tina is the Vice Commodore of Rapid Head.

The club has grown rapidly and now there are shaggers get togethers - meals, parties etc. periodically in numerous towns up the coast. And this annual rally at Montes Reef Resort, Gloucester, near Bowen, is the big one.

We have been members since last year but never attended any of their shore functions. Been slightly wary because their website and promotional stuff suggests a style of dressing up and riotous carousing which, being a curmudgeon, I am, well, wary of.

The corollary function of the club is that cruising shaggers can recognize each other by their fluttering shaggers flags and know that of the boats in an anchorage they are the more likely to be interested in chat, sundowners and so forth. The shaggers flag says "we are cruisers, not bare boaters, and yes, we would probably like to have a drink or a cuppa with you."

We have had such a good time this year socially, with some assistance from our shaggers membership, that we decided to brave it and attend the rally.

Day one and it's looking promising. There are about a hundred and fifty boats here and more arriving. They include a number that we have had good times with cruising up here and are keen to spend more time with, so even if the partying gets too shrieky there will be quiet corners with good company over the next few days.

The meet & greet session that night with drinks and music and dancing was a bit shrieky but lots of fun. It was announced that the event was larger in boats attending than either Airlie Race Week or Hamilton Island Race Week. Some of the blokes on hearing that Tina was the VC of Rapid Head wanted to know what her PB was. 'Course I didn't know what they were talking about.

Day two was a picnic on Shag Islet, a rocky little lump with a small sand spit at low tide, around which the fleet is anchored, with just enough room for a couple of hundred picnickers. The event was BYO everything and all attired in formal shaggerwear club shirts. There was valet parking for the dinghies, volunteers taking them all out and tying them in rafts away from the oyster covered rocks.


Our anxieties about drunken mayhem were unnecessary. Most of this mob like a drink, but as an aid to conviviality, not the main attraction. The air was thick with sailing stories of all shapes and sizes. Cruisers mostly have quite a bit in common, having all jumped through the hoops of acquiring a boat, getting it into the condition they require and learning how to handle it. Lots of cruisers are ex builders or building tradespeople, small business operators of one sort or another, engineers, a few teachers. Not many lawyers. Not many politically correct opinions about current issues.

After a few hours the organized picnic broke up and most returned to their boats, but a few spontaneous unorganized beach and boat parties broke out.

Day three was fairly shrieky. Parrot head dress up party. Hawaiian shirts, leis and parrot head hats. Music, raffle, auction of donated prizes which all raised 27K for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the event's chosen charity. And yes, booze and mayhem.


Good show, but. It was well organized and went off without mishap as far as I know.

Day four and we'd had enough. The program had the day listed for a pirate party at a pub in the next bay. Even if it hadn't been preceded by three days of carousing which is more than sufficient for us, I have a problem with pirate themed stuff.

My only gripe about boaties is the tendency of numbers of them to fly the so called Jolly Roger, the skull and crossbones flag which I suppose is to signify that they claim to be crazy wild fun kind of guys. And dress up in pirate costumes and party in a crazy wild fun kind of way. It's mindless. What are pirates about? Murder, rape and plunder. So much fun you could laugh your head off. Pirates are our mortal enemy, for Chrissakes. Well in Oz our main enemy is the burgeoning regulating class, but for the international sailor pirates are no joke and the pirates R fun theme is an offensive disease and a blight on the intelligence of the boating community. And there'll be no lightening up about the pirate question around here.

So we bolted on the morning of day four and we weren't alone. Numerous sailors sailed off to the east and numerous sailors sailed off to the west. We went west and then south back into Airlie to restock.

Final thoughts about the SICYC rally are that we're glad we overcame our misgivings and attended. It was good to see various people again after meetings in various anchorages on the way up here, and it gave us a better appreciation of the size and strength and general capability and decency of the cruising community, apart from the softness in the heads of some regarding pirate business.

People like to belong to something. There are many mansions in the house of humanity, and that of cruising yachties is our favourite corner for now.


While restocking we picked up a new gadget. It's called a SPOT tracker. It's a little gps unit which sends position reports via satellite every 10 minutes while we're moving, independent of the phone network. If you're interested you can see where we are going by following this link;



Airlie Beach         30 August    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------




We've been a bit busy sailing. Whitsundays to Brisbane in two weeks. That's not really dashing because if you don't stop you can do that in about four days. But it's fairly dashy for us. We've got the let's get home bug. Let's get back to SA so that we can cruise around Kangaroo Island and Coffin Bay for the second half of summer. Queensland isn't actually perfect. The water in the Whitsundays is almost up to 25 degrees which is when stingers start appearing and the algal bloom muck is everywhere stinking the place up and clogging up one's water maker. And the humidity is getting up there. And a sailor can't live on mackerel and mud crabs and oysters alone. He needs squid and scallops and abalone and King George whiting too for a balanced diet.

Two years is enough for an inaugural cruise. Time to take Midnight Blue away from the Pacific Ocean and introduce her to our home and the Southern Ocean.

We had some great sailing on the way down. The winds were helpful for about half of each week, so on those days we travelled. Numerous spinnaker runs and minimal motoring.

We paused behind Fraser Island for a few days while the wind blew the wrong way. We joined a day tour from the Kingfisher Bay Resort around the island beauty spots. Thirty thrill seekers in a four wheel drive bus with big bouncy sand tyres and a 300 horsepower diesel motor and a jokey driver who kept us all amused and informed as we careered  through the forest and along the beach. It was of course an Eco Tour and we roared through the creeks and splashed and sprayed sand in all directions in the most eco friendly way possible.

 We had an eco smoko at Lake McKenzie, a perched lake of clear green rainwater, and then walked a few miles through Pile Valley, full of big Turpentine trees, since renamed Satinay trees, extensively used for jetty piles, along a creek with a white sandy bed and water so clear it was almost invisible.


Lake McKenzie



                                                                                                         A foot of invisible water in a creek

  Back in the bus and we eco power charged down to the Eurong Beach Resort where we had an eco buffet lunch before eco racing up the ocean beach to see the Maheno shipwreck, Eli creek, and other sights. It was a good day. Our jokey driver appointed each of the kids on board (school holidays) in turn to sit in the front seat as Chief Dingo Spotter and jokily blamed them for the absence of any sign of a dingo or any other creature. Of course a body not in a roaring bus belching eco diesel exhaust but walking quietly through the forest or even sailing by will see all sorts of wildlife. 


Returning to Kingfisher Bay our dinghy was stranded by the tide, as expected, so we had to hang about and drink beer and so forth with holiday makers, which wasn't too bad, sharing laments about the harm being done by our egregious government and the shame of grandkids out of control when raised in the you-can-have-it-all-if-you-believe-in-your-dream-and-never-mind-about-working entitlement style, which are really two sides of the same problem. The grandkids thing is not our experience, but we were able to empathise, until the dinghy refloated.

A couple of days later the Wide Bay Bar ducks all lined up in a row for us so we ventured out over it and spinnakered on down to Mooloolaba. Where we berthed as directed in the marina and found a Chamberlin catamaran on our left and another Chamberlin catamaran on our right. Maurice Crawford in "folie a deux" and Bruce and Suzanne Arms in "Big Wave Rider", which has the record for quickest single handed non stop circumnavigation of Oz. Bruce and Suzanne have a fairly big profile in the sailing world, having won the Three Peaks race and organised Jessica Watson's round the globe trip, among other things. Midnight Blue was the oldest and daggiest of the three cats but the most comfortable for cruising, we reckon. Anyway there was so much excitement about Chamberlin catamaran business that we all went out for fish n chips. And talked and talked.

Midnight Blue in distinguished company

Next day we snuck down to Scarborough, anchored in the bay, and dinghied into Newport marina for a look around. First thing we saw was a boat the same shape as ours. Turned out to be "Catchcry", a sister ship. After some more excited chat with her owners about Chamberlin catamaran business we felt fully loved and enfolded in the basky glow of belonging. People like to belong to something. There is a funny sub-group of motor cruisers who get about in packs. Or strings really - they follow the leader, all in a line, bums down, noses up, burning up lots of diesel pushing tons of ocean out of their way, be it this way or that way, doesn't matter, wherever the leader goes. I reckon that a line of a dozen of them charging along the horizon out into Hervey Bay, with whales leaping and flopping all around, is a funny sight. And it's not a localized phenomenon - you see the same thing in Backstairs Passage as the Adelaide Riviera Club head over to Kangaroo Island for their Easter regatta, spreading a big wake over the ocean as a proud signal of their joy of belonging.

Happy string of cruisers being considerate and passing us slowly

The whales aren't necessarily funny. There are thousands of them travelling down the coast. It's whale soup out here. The sight of one fully out of the water about a hundred metres away flying (momentarily) straight at me engenders anxiety rather than hilarity. Our hulls are black and kind of whale shaped. Hope they have their reputed wits about them and don't get playful with us.

Manly. Home away from home. Apart from catching up with some Brisbane friends, we wanted to make some boat improvements. We wanted to make her a bit smarter. Smarter in the brains department, not decor. So we replaced the dead radar with a new one, put in a combination plotter / radar display and a new autopilot controller. That belted the budget pretty badly and started a steep little techno gadget learning curve to get the hang of it all. She sure is smart now. Previously the autopilot would steer to hold a bearing, sort of, except when it randomly turned itself off just for fun. Now it will steer automatically to a point which is very nice and helpful except that when it gets there it insists on freaking out with a strident alarm which we only seem to be able to avoid by anticipating and turning it off just before we get there. The trouble with electronic stuff is that in the way it works you are at the mercy of the whims of the geek who designed it. He thinks it will be good to have a loud panic alarm go off every time you pass a waypoint so that's what happens. Helps to keep the helmperson awake and on the job of watching out for frolicking whales, crab pots, ships, thunderstorms etc., I suppose.

Now we are dawdling down through the passages inside Stradbroke Island to Southport and preparing for a dash to Sydney. Tina is leaving the boat at Southport and going home to Willunga to plant some tomatoes to give me even more incentive to get around there.  I'll soldier on with other crew. An experienced couple, friends of friends, are coming from Southport to Sydney and a couple of mates from Adelaide from Sydney on. There may well be further stories to be told, but this seems a good place to conclude this chapter.



JumpinPin        South Stradbroke Island               21 October.

Next chapter;       Sydney to Adelaide, late 2012