Australia 1, Bundaberg to Sydney
WE arrived in Bundaberg on 26th October 2009.
As part of the Port to Port rally we were welcomed with open arms and after completing customs, quarantine and immigration formalities we settled down to a week of parties and social with our friends from across the Pacific. Taking the opportunity of available mechanics and supplies, I serviced the engines, completed some maintenance and had some additional Bimini and hatch covers made to keep the aggressive Australian sun at bay.
While it’s relatively straightforward to obtain a cruising permit for a foreign flag vessel, many of our Australian friends were faced with a mountain of paperwork, formality and cost to import their boats, and those who’s trip had finished were wrestling with the emotion of selling their boats and returning to life on land. This lead to some good parties and emotional farewells.
After a week or so in Bundy we headed south down the inside passage of Fraser Island. We stopped with our friends the Blues and spent a peaceful few days at anchor at the Kingfisher resort and Garry’s anchorage. Being inside the island we had an opportunity to watch the weather and gauge the accuracy of the weather forecasts before we headed out through Wide Bay Bar, our first Bar crossing in Australia, and notoriously dangerous exit into the Coral sea.
As with any new cruising area, there are local techniques that the newcomer must learn. Crossing the Bar is an East coast classic. In essence the East cost has a number of harbours that are accessed through river mouths. The seaward side of the entrance tends to silt up causing a shallow area on which the offshore swell breaks. If the tide is ebbing, this can cause a violent short sea, dangerous to small craft. The trick is to cross the bar with an incoming tide and low swell conditions, making the passage safer. This makes timing arrival at refuge a key part of the passage plan and with the changeable Australian weather was another factor in our cautious approach to cruising the East coast.
We left Wide Bay Bar without incident and headed South for the day arriving at Mooloolabar late afternoon. We had arranged to meet our friends on Vagabond Heart and were welcomed by Bill and Debbie standing on the harbour wall waving. After mooring Pegasus we all went to the Park next to the marina and had a great evening BBQ. The Australians encourage outdoor activities and most parks will have free BBQ’s and a play area. We spent many happy evenings in the park, eating with our friends and letting the children play into the night.
Mooloolabar is a great place for cruisers. There are all the usual facilities and services, the town and shops are close and there is a park between the Marina and the Beach, which happens to be only 150 meters away and have great surf on it. We planned to stay a while and meet Amanda’s parents there. They had arrived in Sydney and were travelling north to spend some time with us all. Another issue that needed sorting were Jean-Jaques teeth.
During the last ocean passage of the Pacific, JJ had developed toothache. After taking him to the dentist in Bundaberg, it became apparent that this was not a straightforward issue and that he needed to see a paediatric dentist. There was all sorts of talk about general anaesthetic, multiple crowns and extractions, which we found pretty worrying. After some time in the “Consultation and referral” stage we found a great dentist some 20KM from Mooloolabar who, after our consultation, was confident that she could give him 3 crowns without a GA, using gas and air. This was a relief, as our insurance was not that comprehensive, and we didn’t want JJ to have a GA if it could be helped. The work was completed successfully without incident and we were delighted that we had finally resolved this issue and could move on without worrying about his teeth and any pain he may be in.
Amanda’s parents arrived and we all had a great time both on the boat and in their campervan, which the boys loved. They had rented a large campervan and driven North staying at various campsites, and on arrival in Mooloolabar found a campsite just 5 minutes walk from the marina. Perfect for all. The boys really enjoyed seeing Granny and Grandpa, and much fun was had in the surf, on the beach, BBQing and eating out. WE all spent a memorable day at Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo where JJ and Louis fed kangaroos and elephants and generally saw and touched Australian wildlife. Amanda’s father, who had spent some time living in the bush in his youth, let us know which animals tasted good and which to avoid. I found it fascinating, but I hope we don’t have to use the information at any point in our travels!!!
We had a plan to have Christmas in Sydney with Vagabond Heart, Lucey Blue and my Father. The Production company had wanted to film my Father meeting his grandchildren for the first time and so I had bought tickets for him to fly to Sydney and join Pegasus from 21st to 30th December and time was pushing on.
Early on the 27th November we headed south with the plan to meet Amanda’s parents in Distinction Bay where we thought we could moor Pegasus and they could camp. After leaving early we arrived there in the afternoon and Bob and Yvonne were not far behind. We took the BBQ ashore and had a great evening with a fire on the beach and lovely food. The following day we swan, BBQ’ed and had fun on the river. This would be our last day in the bush, as we planned to head into Brisbane the following day and the nearest campsite to the marina was some 10km away.
We left early and arrived in the mouth of the Brisbane river at 10am. There is a marina right in the heart of Brisbane, some 10 miles up the river, and by 12am we were tied up alongside in the centre of the city. I was surprised and pleased to see our old friend Ian on Mikado in the marina, along with a few other boats we knew. It had all the makings of a good party, and the first night Ian and I put the world to rights, although we never did find the Rum thief!!!
Bob and Yvonne had another day or two with the campervan, so the boys went and stayed with them and had a ball. They were to spend their final 5 nights on board Pegasus before flying back from Brisbane. Some 15 miles to the west on Morton Island was the Tangalooma wild Dolphin resort. This looked like a suitable place to anchor for a few nights and enjoy the beach. We had a straightforward passage and with some messing around managed to drop the hook securely opposite the resort.
It was the 3rd December and Amanda’s birthday. After some discussion as to wether to stay in Brisbane and go out, or go to the resort, Amanda decided that she wanted to get out of Brisbane for a few days. After presents, Champagne and fun, we decided that I would take Amanda for dinner in the resort. Well the Wild Dolphin Resort was not exactly as we imagined. The Wild Dolphins were fed every night by up to 300 Japanese tourists waiting in line to feed the dolphins while a photographer took the all important souvenir photo. After watching for a moment or two we were asked to move on, and after that, we found that we were not welcome at the resort. We couldn’t buy a drink and we certainly couldn’t have dinner in the empty restaurant. Quite incredible, and we were a little shocked. There’s something slightly unnerving when the unwritten rules of capitalism are flouted and you and your money are unwelcome. We later found out that this has been a resort policy for years and only resort guests were welcome after 6.30pm. In all the resorts we have been to over the last year we have always been welcome: it’s just a shame that we couldn’t celebrate Amanda’s birthday at the Tangalooma “not so” wild “its 6 o clock I’m feeling peckish” Dolphin resort.
We were, however, welcome during the day, and after a few great beach days we headed back to the mainland and the lea of Woody point, expecting a windy night. The following day we headed back to Brisbane centre as Bob and Yvonne had some shopping to do and we wanted to go to a few museums and art galleries.
It was whilst I was with the Boys in the maritime museum that I received the call from my Half Brother Daniel. Dad had suffered a stroke and was in Hospital in Adelaide. Well, not sure how to take the news I decided that I should fly to Adelaide without delay. The next morning I was in the hospital with Dad, and although shocking, it was apparent that he had been extremely lucky. By an act of God he had manage to call an ambulance and get his front door open to get to hospital. IN terms of severity, it was by all accounts a mild stroke but with significantly disabillitating medium term effects. It was also a shock for all the family, and now, 2 months later, he is doing much better, and we hope will make a full recovery.
I spent a week in Adelaide with Dad and his Australian children, and flew back to Brisbane where Amanda and the boys had been keeping busy with the many museums and attractions that central Brisbane offered. Amanda’s Parents had flown home, so we were back as a family again and thinking about heading off to Sydney for Christmas and New Year. The time pressure was now off as there was no way Dad could fly and then handle being on the boat for a week. What a shame. I was particularly upset as this had been in planning for a while: We would have to sail to Adelaide to see him in the New Year.
We set off from Brisbane on 14th Dec heading south along the inside of Sandy Island to the Bar exit at Southport. The weather was fine so we decided to push south for Sydney. WE exited the Bar at Southport at 9.30pm and sailed south in light winds close hauled. After 2 days it looked like we in for a blow so we decided to head into Camden Haven, a quiet town some 150 miles N of Sydney. WE arrived as the wind picked up, got through the Bar without incident, and anchored in the River opposite the town of Lauriston. .
Lauriston was lovely, a quiet country town with all amenities within easy reach. There was even a swimming pool that, we all enjoyed in the windy but hot weather. Saturday night and a cruisers drinks party on the dock introduced us to the other boats at anchor. We all had a jolly time and good social with the first Australian cruisers we had met since arriving in October. On Sunday we went to the local Market, which was just fantastic, bought some provisions for our next passage and a few Christmas gifts, then went back to Pegasus.
On our way back the faithful 15hp outboard just died. No rhyme or reason just stopped working. Now outboards are not that complicated, if it has spark, fuel and air it should go. Nearly always the issue is the carburettor, but after stripping it, soliciting help from experienced cruisers and stripping it again, there was ho way I could get it going. Oh well, plan B, take it to a Yamaha dealer in Sydney. We had our little 2hp, so we still had transport.
We set sail on 20th Dec bound for Pittwater, some 15miles N of Sydney, where our friends on Vagabond Heart lived. 24 hours later and we sailed into Refuge bay picking up a buoy alongside the Vagabonds. Within minutes the children were all on the beach and the adults drinking coffee, catching up on events of the last month.
After 5 years sailing, the vagabonds had arrived back in their homeport, and we listened with interest at how they were managing their integration back into the shore-based life. Debbie had returned to her work as a doctor, and Bill was working part time with some old colleagues in Management consultancy. The Children had been to their new schools for induction and would start the new term after Christmas. They had decided to keep living on Vagabond Heart for consistency, and they still had a good let in their house. Remarkably, after only a little teasing, their car was still operational, so they were all set. We thought they had managed the situation very well and lessons were learnt and filed for our return to the UK.
The plan was to spend Christmas in Pittwater and then head to Sydney for fireworks on New Years Eve. The Film company were still keen to film our arrival in Sydney as the end of the programme, so it was arranged that Ben the Cameraman would arrive in Pittwater on 29th Dec to sail down and through the harbour with us. Christmas was a little damp, but we all had great fun on the beach, and were joined by our friends the Blues who had sold their boat and were due to head back to Norway imminently. It was quite a party and everyone had a great time with presents, god food and bonhomie
Ben arrived on schedule, but the wind was not perfect so we spent a rough and windy morning sailing the 15 miles south to Sydney. Arriving in the harbour close behind the vagabonds we sailed past the shore side cameraman, Opera house and under the Harbour bridge. It felt quite surreal to be in Sydney, literally the other side of the world from our base in Cowes.
An old friend from the Isle of Wight, now living in Singapore, was in Sydney with his family and we had arranged to all have lunch together. We were a little delayed, but at 2pm we picked up a buoy off Mcmahones point and I went ashore to pick up Tim and Yulin and their family. We were pleasantly surprised to see Tim’s father with him and after getting everyone onboard we had a great lunch party, eating, drinking and swimming. There was much merriment and it was great to see everyone and have them on board Pegasus. We will see them all again in Asia I’m sure.
Late afternoon we said our goodbyes and headed up to Athol Bay where we planned to raft up with the Vagabonds and watch the fireworks the following evening.
Another good party and spectacular fireworks saw in the New Year. Sadly that really marked the end of our time with the friends we had made in the Pacific.
We said farewell as the vagabonds departed back to Pittwater leaving us in Sydney to prepare for our passage south. I had a number of issues to sort out with Pegasus, not least of all buying a new outboard. The old faithful 15hp was terminally ill, or rather the dealers couldn’t find the fault. After much deliberation the best option was to purchase a new one, so that was a priority when the shops opened after the New Year break. In addition I had some fibreglass repairs to make and items to purchase before we headed off again.
As I worked on Pegasus, Amanda took the boys to the sights around Sydney. We had anchored in Rozelle bay; right by the fish markets, so were in the centre of town. Amanda toured the Fish market early one morning to watch the fish being auctioned, while I took the boys for breakfast, then on to the Immigration offices to sort out our visas for a further 7 months. After a few hours we miraculously organised our visas, and we set for the full term of our intended stay in Australia.
Our Cameraman Ben was still in town, and as this was the last sequence to be filmed, it was the end of the production from our side. We arranged to meet up and all had an extravagant dinner in darling harbour to celebrate, what we hoped, was a job well done. It was now up to the skilled series producer James Nutt to make the programme, and I’m sure that it will reflect, in many ways, the spirit of our adventure. (The programme will be aired sometime in 2010, on channel 4 and is part of the series called “Family Gap Year”. I’ll keep you posted.)
By the 8th January we were ready and the weather looked good. A little apprehensive of our forthcoming endeavour, we slipped out of Sydney heads early with 15kts on the starboard quarter. Great sailing conditions, but things change quickly in Australia and without warning. We were headed south and unsure how far we would get before the next southerly change would find us looking for shelter.
The cards had been laid when my Father had his stroke. We were bound for Adelaide to see what it was like down south and spend some time with my father. After that we could head back to the east coast and backtrack, or, if the weather looked good, head over to Perth, an altogether more challenging and appealing option. Once across the Great Australian Bight, 1000 miles of lea shore in the southern ocean!! We could slowly make our way up the west coast, through the remote Kimberly region (Crocodile country) and try and be in Darwin for July. That had the makings of a good plan so off we went south to see just how big those waves get in the Bass straight and Southern Ocean!!!
See our photographs of Bundaberg to Sydney at