We have lots to tell you, so grab a cuppa and find a comfortable spot to sit and read this longer post!
First: fixing things!
No weekly post would be complete without a dose of boat maintenance! You might recall we discovered we had a broken alternator bracket when we got to Coffs Harbour last week. Well, we got our new bracket made by Marcia Street Fabricators, metal work manufacturers who did a terrific job in record time! So we were quickly operational again.
Following our main halyard failure a couple of weeks ago, we also ordered a new set of halyards and sheets from International Rope Braid, a Queensland rope manufacturer. We learnt our lesson, prevention is better than cure. So we are replacing everything. We have now picked up the lot on the Gold Coast!
We were pretty pleased with ourselves at successfully threading the halyards up. However, while up the mast, Wade noticed the lazy jacks pulleys were looking a bit worse for wear. He was removing them and drilling out an old fitting when a drill bit broke and dropped down… straight onto one of the solar panels. And of course it is shattered! It never ever stops! Guess what we are doing now?
While at Coffs Harbour, we could not resist taking a walk up Mutton Bird Island, to get a view of our surroundings and observe the birds flying. For the keen bird watchers among our followers, here are some images of a few stunning feathered friends! Zoom in to see their beautiful plumage.
Bravely running away!
The next challenges were an East Coast Low weather warning and the concerning developments with COVID cases escalating. We felt we were at risk of getting stranded in northern NSW one way or another if we did not act quickly.
Australian East Coast Lows are intense low pressure systems which cause severe weather with many of the characteristics of tropical cyclones. They develop between 25˚ south and 40˚ south just off the Australian coastline, typically during the winter months. They particularly affect the NSW coast. Although variable in size and intensity, they are characterised by widespread heavy rainfall, damaging winds and dangerous seas… When they are forecast it is time to find a spot to hide!
We hummed and harred about what to do: stay in Coffs Harbour but move to the Marina, sail up to Yamba and anchor in the Clarence River, or push on all the way to the Queensland Gold Coast? What helped make our mind up was hearing of the hundreds of COVID cases in Victoria and the increase in NSW also. We were worried that the Queensland border might close again. So we obtained our border passes and bravely ran away!
Although you hear on the news that Victorians are banned from crossing interstate borders, the regulation actually states that as long as a person has been out of a declared ‘hot spot’ for more than fourteen days, they are allowed entry into Queensland. And yes, Queensland declared the whole of Victoria as a hot spot!
For the permit application, go to https://www.qld.gov.au/. You make an online declaration which is a legal document with heavy fines if you are found to tell porkies! The permit is issued immediately provided you meet the requirements but only valid for 7 days and can be cancelled at any time if conditions change. So it is no guarantee you will get through until you are at the border!
We left Coffs Harbour on Saturday morning and motor-sailed in light NW winds to Yamba – a 50 nm passage – far from ideal conditions! It was a bit tedious, but we were on a mission. We anchored near Whiting Beach for the night, just past the southern breakwater. We always feel a bit self-conscious when we come into Yamba. This is where Anui was built and lots of people know the boat.
We pushed on to Byron Bay on Sunday for another 55 nm. It was one of those frustrating days when you have the mainsail up, but are for ever rolling the jib in and out, swapping it for the screecher, furling that in and out, turning the engines off and on then doing the whole thing over and over again, all the time also dodging the rain. But we reached our last NSW destination by mid afternoon. We dropped the pick a fair way off the beach in 7 meters of water as this is an exposed, open anchorage. With some swell always present, it is passable in a catamaran but monohulls roll around a lot!
As we looked north beyond Mount Warning, both of us said « Oh look, Queensland… the promised land! »
It left 45nm to cover on Monday to get to Southport. It was another motor-sail in light winds and threatening skies… way more motoring than we like, but we were still on a mission!
Whales were particularly active around Tweed Heads. A loud whoosh sounded just off our port side and Anui suddenly felt rather close!
We were across the NSW/QLD border by 10.30 am and a couple of hours later we reached the Gold Coast Seaway, the main navigation entrance from the Pacific Ocean into the Gold Coast Broadwater and southern Moreton Bay. A few friends were obviously tracking us on Marine Traffic; we received messages as we were reaching our milestone. Thank you all for thinking of us.
Also tracking us were Queensland Maritime Safety (MSQ) and the water police! The procedure for maritime entry into the state was thorough. We were contacted by the Gold Coast Seaway Tower via radio and by MSQ by phone before we crossed into Queensland. As our voyage was tracked on AIS (Automatic Identification System) they had evidence of the main ports we had stopped at and an official record of the dates. All this proved we had been out of any « hot spot » for more than two weeks. We were asked to email our border passes, travel log and ID and ten minutes later we received confirmation we had permission to enter Queensland. Maritime Safety also sent a photo of Anui, its registration and our entry permits to the Seaway Tower, the QLD Health Department and the Water Police announcing our authorised arrival! Very comprehensive, as it should be. And then they sent a pod of dolphins as the welcome party!
We are safely anchored at Paradise Point, pleased to be escaping the East Coast Low nastiness and relieved to be in Queensland at last. Mission accomplished! But we must admit it feels a bit surreal to be back in the very spot we left eight months ago: Wade bound for Melbourne, Chris for France! We went through so much in that time and yet it is as if these eight months have evaporated. But hopefully we can now look forward to an easier and more enjoyable phase in our adventures.
For those of you who are not totally familiar with the Australian East Coast, here is a map showing our voyage to date. We left Melbourne in mid March, were in lockdown for two months in the Gippsland Lakes, and have been slowly coming north since the beginning of June. The orange line shows our main hops, the blue line is the direction we are intending to take: towards the Reef! We are not certain how far north we will get, since we are already three and a half months into the tropical cruising season, but we are sure to find beautiful areas to explore.