"Arctracer" Letters

Townsville to Great Sandy Straits, Australia, Nov 2004

It's a sunny day - good for using our computers to do some writing. There are dangers near land too - not just offshore. There have been some severe thunderstorm warnings for a large area around us, with reports of golf ball-sized hail in the Brisbane area. Hope we don't encounter any of those! It would be terrible to lose all of our electronics due to lightning or have hail damage our solar panels and other things on the exterior of the boat!

We left Townsville after a wonderful man at the Breakwater Marina Chandlery fixed the water pump for our starboard engine. It's a relief to have that operating properly now without leaking. The marina only had a berth for us for three days, so we left in weather not conducive to getting south. The first afternoon our we tacked for 25 nm to get 8.5 nm, so anchored off Cape Cleveland for the night. The second day we tacked for 60 nm to get 24 nm and anchored at Cape Bowling Green after motoring to the anchorage in 10' of water for a couple of kilometers - very different from the deep water we've been used to traversing. Finally, on the third day we got winds from northerly sectors so continued sailing for five straight days and nights to arrive in Bundaberg after covering 500 nm. The winds were light and fluky at times, hence the average of only 100 miles per day. We did have days of 156 nm, 135 nm and 128 nm in those five days, so it wasn't very light or no wind all of the time. We got to use our spinnaker a couple of days. We felt fortunate to have this long period of favorable winds so we didn't have to spend many more frustrating days tacking against contrary winds. In the Whitsunday Islands a couple of boats hailed "Raptor" (a sister-ship of ours). One of the boats was "Ramjet" (another sister-ship) so we answered them and they did indeed think we were "Raptor." "Ramjet" is also headed to the Brisbane area.

We've caught plenty of fish - enough to keep the freezer full. These included a 39" Spanish Mackerel, a 31" Spotted Mackerel, and a large Longtail Tuna that we failed to measure. We also lost a couple of lures to fish probably too large to pull onboard. The fastener on our heavy line got straightened out once, releasing the wire leader and lure. We also lost a large fish which ruined a big Rapala lure. The head of it was bitten into and it was wobbly. When attempting to pull in the line with the fish on, it got twisted like we'd never seen before! We'd also never had a lure wrecked like that before. We saw some whales spouting, and think they were sperm whales with their angled blows but they didn't come very close. We also saw dolphins with white on their dorsal fins. We've passed lots of trawlers out fishing in the 50' to 100' depths along the coast that we've been sailing in, and we've sailed through many birds working over jumping fish.

Before leaving Townsville we solved our damp table-salt problem by buying a salt mill. We bought a decent-sized wire rack to put bread and rolls on to cool, and bought lots of veggies. We topped up our water tanks as there are water shortages in Australia this season with many restrictions on its use. Then, once at sea we found it necessary to get out our quilt again after a year and a half. We haven't had it on the bed since Tonga as it has been too hot. We also wore jackets during our night watches - another thing not done for a long time. We're out of the Tropics now, below the Tropic of Capricorn. Nina hasn't been having good luck with keeping sunglasses. She lost another pair overboard while adjusting the angle of the solar panels.

We had planned to continue south as long as we got north-easterly winds, but we got an email from our friends on the Australian boat "Journeyman" that they were in Bundaberg and another email from some New Zealand friends on "Moonraker," also in Bundaberg. We enjoyed late morning tea on "Moonraker" and dinner on "Journeyman." We were also able to get back the propane tank that Fay and Zed borrowed from us in Gizo in the Solomon Islands. We thought we'd see them farther down the coast, but they've decided that they like the Bundaberg area so will be there indefinitely. While entering the channel up the river into Bundaberg we saw a 72' trimaran named "Windswept" that we'd met in the Marshall Islands. We'd bought a towing generator from them too. Anyway, we hailed them on the VHF radio to say hello and to see if we might see them farther south. When we made the call our good friends, Becky and Lach, on "Xephyr" from the US heard us and followed us to another channel. They were only about 5 miles behind us and headed to Bundaberg too. Amazing! Hence, after spending one day at the Midtown Marina way up the Burnett River visiting "Journeyman" and "Moonraker", we headed back down towards the mouth of the river to the Port Bundaberg Marina to visit "Xephyr" and two of our sister-ships - "Selkie" and "Muscat" who've been to Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. We spent a couple of hours on "Selkie" and then visited "Xephyr". Later we fixed three kinds of fish from our freezer for Becky & Lach. They go so fast that they don't generally catch fish! Anyway, Becky made a terrific salad for the meal and we had a great time catching up after not seeing each other since Auckland, New Zealand.

Yesterday we had another good breeze for sailing farther south, so left for the Great Sandy Straits. Becky and Lach have arranged to rent a 4-wheel drive to do some touring of Fraser Island - the largest sand island in the world. They asked if we'd like to join them and since we're making good time getting south we decided it would be fun to do just that. Passing this way twice before we'd thought about doing such a thing, but hadn't. We saw reports in the newspaper in 2001 that wild dingoes can be dangerous to visitors on the island, so we hope we don't have any close encounters with them.

We're enjoying some leisure time for the first time in months - not much of it yet, but enough of a sample to be looking forward to more. There's a lot to be said for "civilization" after being in third world countries for well over a year! No canoes come to trade or beg, and the stores have tremendous amounts of stuff that's just not available in the islands. We are only 116 miles from Brisbane now, as the gull flies. We'll keep you posted as we continue south.