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Archive for the ‘East Coast 10’ Category

Jul
18

Sithonia and Kassandra Peninsulas

Posted by Mei on July 18, 2012 We visited a few anchorages on these peninsulas. Some were quite lovely. It was very hot topping 35 deg C everyday. Luckily the water is crystal clean and inviting. We discovered that the shops all close about 2pm and reopen around 5pm. This is the ideal time to go swimming as everyone can be found on the beach, your butcher, post office staff etc. The anchorages were fairly large and everyone decided to anchor out. It turns out it really wasn't a large enough harbour as the boaties tend to clump just were you are; one boat length away. Even when there is plenty of room elsewhere. A strange type of herd instinct. It certainly kept Kevin busy yelling at peeps about how close they were. One bulgarian yachtie came by on his dinghy after being asked to move by Kevin, he chatted and gave us a bottle of Bulgarian whiskey. We were a tad perplexed. The med mooring anchoring technique; anchoring then tying the stern to a rock or tree certainly makes more sense and less impact on others. Certainly no yelling. We found these beach side towns a little boring. Just tarvernas on the waterfront with exactly the same food in each. There are the BBQ seafoods, seafood stews, mousaka, greek salads and snacky appetizers. Oh and the tourist bland menu of selection of pasta, selection of pizzas, chops and steak and the standby hamburger; all with chips. Every now and then we'd get excited to see something new on the menu. The prices were similar to Australian prices for takeaway. And the quality is ordinary. It is difficult to find where the locals eat because these are Greek tourists in these towns.
Jun
20

Margaret Bay, Cape Grenville

Posted by Mei on June 20, 2010 June 16th 2010. We sailed into this bay with “Storyteller V” (a motor yacht) and Harmony (an Amel 50 ft supermaramu?). Perhaps the Amel didn’t realise it but Kevin was racing her. It took her a while to catch up and an even longer time to pass us. They had to put up all their sails including their mizzen. Margaret bay is very pretty. I was temped to go for a swim it is 27 degrees with 78% humidity and I am very hot when there is no breeze. On the radio Storyteller who was anchored close to the beach mentioned seeing a croc sunning itself. It was HUGE!! I had a cold water shower instead. The VHF radio is our only contact with the other boats. It is like a party line. Everyone listens in. It is comforting in a way because you know if you scream for help on the VHF someone will hear. VHF is line of sight radio with range of up to 25nm depending on the antenna height. We carry one when we dinghy around.
Jun
20

Orchid Point, Lockhart River

Posted by Mei on June 20, 2010 June 15th 2010. Lucas mentioned this anchorage was OK but there were better nearby. After the Bathurst Bay experience; the light swell at high tide was a gentle rock. We were by ourselves for a change. The other boats went into the blind channel at the mouth of the Lockhart River. There is an aboriginal settlement with a hospital there and I expected mobile coverage. I will ask around if there was any. Our anchorage was quite far from the settlement.  I had looked at a “Next G” coverage map and there were spots around the coast that had some coverage. Most of this land in the Cape York Peninsula is aboriginal land. There are barges that deliver diesel and groceries to the towns and trawlers. There are many fishing trawlers working this area. The trawlers fill up with fish and freeze it, a mother-ship takes the catch and delivers it to Cairns and trucked beyond.  There was one barge parked at the Lockhart River entrance who mentioned over the radio he had diesel for sale and water for free. The kind skipper even offered to take garbage away. Garbage is a problem with the yachties and trawlers. In the Great Barrier Reef Zone, it is imperative not to toss any garbage into the sea. So we tend to accumulate it (those who give a damn), so the offer was generous. In Melbourne at the SYC we have large skips in the yacht club to toss our garbage. What do you think they have in the Marlin Marina in Cairns? Just imagine the smell if they did this skip idea. If you know Cairns the Marlin Marina is like the Viaduct in Auckland, full of bars and restaurants. So how is this managed? You bring your smelly rubbish and place it into a compacter which compacts and refrigerates the rubbish until the garbos come and take it away.  Brilliant Aye?
Jun
20

Morris Island

Posted by Mei on June 20, 2010 June 14th 2010. The winds seem to have moderated, although this was not forecasted. We left for Morris Island. There was 20-30 knots of wind, some of this was bullets from the hills. When we got to Flinders Island, the wind died down to 0-5 knots and we had to motor all the way for hours.  When we got to 8nm from our destination we heard on the radio the anchorage was windy. We looked around us at the zero wind and thought bullshit. The people at the anchorage mentioned they had also experienced no wind for a large part of the passage the previous day. Consequently we prepared for wind and there it came. How weird was that? In Cairns we went to Erskine’s Tackle World to get some serious fishing gear. The first salesman was useless but the second; an older guy knew exactly what we needed and was happy to explain how to rig it up. He didn’t steer us to the expensive macona heads, he taught us how to rig up the squids. I was taught to do this years ago; however tactics have changed especially with better materials and different expertise. We specifically wanted to catch mackerel, tuna and mahi mahi. Apparently Mahi mahi are to be caught outside the reef; we had caught one on the NSW coast. Mackerel and Tuna can be caught inside the reef. Lures had to be treated differently when on the handline braid and the rod. We bought the gear and tried to rig up. The steel trace was really difficult to work with. Kevin and I made a few samples up, but we were not happy. However they did work. Today we caught a Big Eyed Tuna. What was eye opening was the bait and tackle shop in Cooktown. It was crammed with tackle for the big end. It was incredibly well stocked. I mentioned my problem with the trace and the shop guy said firmly there was no other choice for mackerel but the wire trace. However if I wanted tuna, then the trace would not catch many because the tuna were canny and could hear the wire trace hum. Use this pink monofilament leader and it will attract more tuna then the trace. Why pink? Well the red colours disappears (becomes invisible) underwater first. I had to agree; the dive course also mentioned this. Yes OK I bought his line, hook line and sinker.
Jun
20

Ninian Bay, Bathurst Bay

Posted by Mei on June 20, 2010 June 12th 2010. We left Lizard Island for Ninian Bay. It is blowing 25-30 knots from the SE. Anchoring in these wind speeds require good safe anchorages. We tried Ninian Bay, it was deemed rolly at >15 knots by Lucas and tolerable by Richards. It was rough for us because we had to anchor such a long way out. Wind swell with a reach of .25 of a nautical mile was enough to be VV rolly. The sea was frothing with white water. We decided not to anchor here. Bathurst Bay was surrounded by huge hills. We expected big bullets from Richards book. We parked where Lucas recommended. There were four other yachts there. We anchored as close as we dared to the beach. We are relying more on the Navionics tide estimations. They appear fairly accurate compared to the QLD tide tables +/- 20cm, and within 10 minutes or so.  We will see how good it is in Darwin the land of the big tides. We anchored about 100m from the beach, there was some swell but relatively OK. The bullets were big and gusting to 30 knots at times. This was not so comfortable, as the boat would turn this way and that about the anchor, and lurch.. However we were safe. Kevin saw a Dugong. June 13th 2010. We tried to go the Flinders Island, supposedly a better anchorage, and in the direction of travel. But the winds were gusting to 40 knots and we thought it was better to turn back and wait it out.
Jun
20

Lizard Island

Posted by Mei on June 20, 2010 June 10th – 12th 2010. The anchorage is full with 10 yachts, in the majority are the foreign boats. Lizard Island is pretty. It has a hill about 320 m high and is famous for being Cook’s lookout. Captain Cook was trying to find a way out of the Great Barrier Reef. He had observed the ominous fact that the Barrier Reef was closing in on him. He was travelling in June and the SE trades were pushing him north. Those old time sailing boats could not sail against the wind. He could get stuck. He saw a way out on Lizard, and sent a small sailing boat out to survey the exit. You know the rest of the story. I bought a stinger suit in Cairns, This is the first time I could use it. Along the mainland are fantastic swimming spots with lovely beaches; unfortunately the crocodiles are prevalent. Lizard has many reefs and is visited by recreational divers. The “cod hole” is the dive spot in this vicinity. Unfortunately the weather is not looking promising for a visit. Kevin is walking up the track to the lookout. I’m not feeling too good, my stomach is feeling unhappy. We met the peeps from “Erica” Eric and Kathy from NZ. They built a custom boat in Taronga. It is outfitted with Kauri, and looks lovely. Eric also devised an elegant solution to affix mosquito nets to the windows. I have to try making them up in Darwin. It seems everyone is pouring over their “Cruising the Coral Coast” and another book; “Cairns to Darwin” by Leslie Richards to find out just how many day hops we can have before we run out of time. We have 19 days to go. We have completely run out of mobile phone coverage. We now have to rely on the HF for weather. We had not turned it on since leaving Victoria. Swimming in the nude has unexpected hazards. A woman from another yacht was swimming around her yacht naked when a wrasse zeroed in an nipped her nipple. Hmm I wonder what hazards face the guys swimming in their birthday suits.
Jun
20

Cape Flattery

Posted by Mei on June 20, 2010 June 8th 2010. We were going like the clappers at 8 knots. Wind from the SE. Kevin caught a fish 1.2m long. We caught it with a spoon on the braided handline. It was freaking huge mackerel. Kevin had difficulty pulling it in. We furled the headsail. No dice. I turned the yacht into the wind. Sail began to flog. Kevin managed to get the fish up to the yacht. I found the gaff; a stick with enormous hook. But where was the bottle of bundy? “Never mind that we’ll bash it with a winch handle”. Kevin whacked it and I put it away the winch handle. Was that enough? I watched the fish cautiously. Big teeth, all muscle. It twisted and flipped! I ran down the hatch and looked for the nearest alcohol. Glenfiddich; that will have to do. Kevin took it reluctantly, and tipped some on the gills and the fish died immediately. Kevin cut up the fish with a hacksaw. We took about a third. We reluctantly tossed the rest back into the ocean as there was no one to give it to. The mackerel is a pelagic fish which eats reef fish. The larger the fish the more likely it will have ciguatera in its flesh. Ciguatera is a toxin that can give you food poisoning if you accumulate too much in your blood stream. Eating small quantities is better.
Jun
20

Cooktown

Posted by Mei on June 20, 2010 June 7th 2010. Captain Cook holed Endeavour on Endeavour Reef. He stayed at Cooktown to repair the ship and restock his larder (freshwater, meat, what did they do for veges and carbs?) I walked to the last supermarket before Darwin. The foreshore had a few statues of guess who. What was interesting and unexpected was a mosaic pictures and story of Cooks arrival from the aboriginals point of view. I’m sorry I didn’t take any photos I was too busy reading it. Along the way was a local art contest exhibition. Nice, quite a jump from the Mentone local art exhibits, some aboriginal and contemporary (not quite NVG, but professional). I met some of the artists who were there looking after the venue and one mentioned if I really wanted to see some more aboriginal art I’d stay for the weekend festival. Festival? “Oh yes we’re doing an re-enactment of Cook’s visit and encounter with the local folks.” WOW! I went to the “re-enactment office” to get a program. It certainly was packed; a 2 day festival with lots of live bands, fancy dress parade and party, re enactment, indigenous dancers, firelight corroboree “The cook story in song and dance” by the local Bama tribe, workshops, camel rides, 60 market stalls and fireworks. We were in a tight time loop; and we really could not stay. We want to be in Darwin by July 1. Damn! That night at our anchorage on the Endeavour River, a very narrow channel, we noticed the re-enactment actors rehearsing for the big show. We wanted to go to shore and watch but were having huge difficulties with where the yacht was sitting. It tended to drift to the sandbank with wind gusts. Kevin jumped into the dinghy and dropped the stern anchor. This worked well for the incoming tide. The tide changed and the yacht was not sitting with the current and we had to pull up the stern anchor. The next tide was at 1am. Kevin woke up and watched how the yacht was behaving and he decided to drop the stern anchor again. I woke up about 4am. The stern anchor wrapped around our anchor chain. How this happened, I will never know. We got it off and I began my anchor watch. When dawn broke we left Cooktown.
Jun
20

Low Isles

Posted by Mei on June 20, 2010 June 6th 2010. Low Isles are 7nm from Port Douglas. We stopped there instead. I remembered the snorkelling was great (1989). Would you believe it felt too cold to swim. The wind was blowing 15 knots (SE Trades) and it was a ~23 degrees. There were a few public mooring buoys (a blue and white buoy). We are allowed to stay 4 hours only, however if you arrive at 3pm you can stay overnight till 9am. The Parks prefer if you use these buoys to minimise coral damage. The buoys look very robust the rope is 75mm in diameter. We scooted to the beach and walked around it. Pulling up their dinghy was the crew from “Camille” Peter and Judith. They’re on the Sail Indo rally too. Low Isles had a group of Europeans (mostly Brits) study it early last century, and the Australian marine scientists are continuing the work. It’s one of the few places where there has been serious historical scientific data. There is a lighthouse on it (automatic since 1969) with the original lighthouse keeper’s residence. The researchers have the run of the island and the live in the old buildings. We spotted some sitting under a tree in their bathers reading a book (it was Sunday). The island opposite called Woody Island and has mangroves with a resident population of turtles etc. there was no mention of Crocs. Whew.
Jun
05

Cairns

Posted by Mei on June 5, 2010 May 30th - 6th 2010.

Dive course. PADI open water course. Deep Sea Divers Den.

Day one. Swimming pool and classroom

First 10 minutes was very freaky. I was bordering on the edge of panic. I forced myself to calm down and resist the urge to stand up (we were kneeling in chest deep water). We went through the exercises. If I concentrated on the exercises and not my fear, it was OK. What I thought would be incredibly scary; to scuba without my facemask was quite a doodle because it was the end of the session and I was quite comfortable about breathing with the regulator. What was weird was trying to swim in a horizontal plane. I was swimming up then down; any which way but horizontal. No consistency, it was a crap shoot where I would end up. Turned out I was doing several things wrong at the same time. Still don’t know if I can do this fundamental skill.

Day 2. Swimming pool and classroom

Had to swim 200 m. Have not done this in years. I managed but it took forever. I know I should have practiced. The other skills were not too difficult.  You do get used to swimming with a regulator and you begin to trust it. We practiced the “help I’ve run out of air” a few times. I still have trouble equalising. Am swimming horizontal-ish. The peeps I’m doing the Dive course are Andrew and Esther from Spain and Julian and Philip from Germany.  Our dive instructor is Michael Clark. Michael is a great instructor, patient and gave very clear and concise instructions (especially underwater); when things went wrong he helped us all through it. It’s a good group; everyone is friendly and quite excited about going to the reef. They are all doing the 5 day course with 2 nights on a dive vessel (4 qualification dives and 7 fun dives). I had booked for 2 day trips out to the reef with only 4 qualification dives; with an instructor probably not Michael, as he was going with the other students. Ulp! I trusted the dude with my life and I’d have to switch to someone else?? I got thrown all the permutations and now I had to convince Kevin it would be a good idea if he came for an over night / two day dive trip while I finished my course. It took a little arm twisting but he came. Kevin had qualified in the PADI Open Water in February in Melbourne. He had not done any dives since. He thought he needed to get some dives in to gain some experience. We both thought it would be daunting if we both went diving together without all the PADI support staff and local reef knowledge, on our own boat.

Day 3.

We went out to the reef in a fast catamaran. It was about 30nm away and took about 1.5 hours. There was no swell.

First Dive: Dive site – Tropos, Norman Reef. Great Barrier Reef, Far North Queensland (FNQ)

It was not a doodle. Actually quite horrible. I jumped in from 2.5m, not a giant stride (plenty of resistance), 2 legs together and shot down like a rocket, mask became dislodged. Bobbed up to the surface and put on the mask. Went into descend mode. The other peeps were moving down fairly fast and I began to sink. The mask kept leaking and I was occupied keeping it clear, but forgetting to equalise the pressure. The pressure was uncomfortable and the water up my nose was getting very annoying. I was getting distressed. Breathing rapidly and thinking the surface was a very good place to be. I started to ascend and the pressure in my ears got better. Yep the surface was my space. Michael swam to me and managed to calm me down. My breathing steadied and he got me to descend very slowly and the equalisation worked better. He practically held my hand all the way down. My mask was still leaking but the ears were happy. We did a few of the simpler skills and that was very calming. On the surface I asked Michael why it was leaking, it had been fine before. Apparently I had the bottom of the mask touching my nose, and the moment it had a drop of water; I knew about it. Duh!!!

Second Dive: Dive site – Tropos, Norman Reef. Great Barrier Reef, FNQ

Michael suggested I take a lead weight off because I looked overloaded. I sank easily and more controlled down a line. Someone else got into trouble. I was at the bottom and watched for a few moments and then tried not to look; began to concentrate on breathing steadily. I was afraid I’d get fretful as well. He recovered and we began to do our other skills (the same ones we had practiced in the pool) with giant butterfly fishes swimming curiously around us. Mask was not leaking, ears happy and I was neutrally buoyant; with everything working it was OK.

Third Dive: Dive site – Playground, Norman Reef. Great Barrier Reef, FNQ

We shifted to another boat. We were going to stay overnight on it. This also meant we had to use new gear. Donned a new tight wetsuit and the same number of weights I used before. I tried to sink by emptying the air out of my Buoyancy Compensating Device (BCD). I couldn’t sink. Bugger!! Michael had to pull me down by the fin the first 5 m to compress my wetsuit. After that I could control my depth. We did some more skills. This time we had to remove our mask completely, hold for 10 seconds and then put it back. Someone else got into difficulty, could not put the mask back on properly and began to freak. Michael calming Michael, did his magic. He then took us on tour around the reef. He picked up a pineapple sea cucumber and passed it around. Sorta slimy.

Night on the Ocean Reef

The dive boat lit up the back of the boat and this attracted many large fish and a shark. Kevin went on a night dive with a dive master. We could not dive at night as we were not qualified (was not sure I would want to). The back of the boat had a hydraulic platform that could sink 30 cm underwater and we could lie on it with our masks and watch the fish. I decided to try a larger size wet suit but still had difficulty with the zip and asked Esther to help me. Esther speaks English pretty well but prefers Spanish. As she tried to pull the zip up; it was hilarious to hear her hiss to herself “No fucking way”.

Day 4

Fourth Dive (last qualification dive): Dive site – Caves, Norman Reef. Great Barrier Reef, FNQ

This dive we sank down to 18 m our deepest dive. I now had an extra weight on and was sinking too easily. But this is OK because I can compensate by adding air into my BCD. The trick is to get it just right. I eventually got it and could swim horizontally. It was hard work breathing at 18m. It certainly felt harder to get the air. We learnt how to use a compass underwater.

Mei, Julien, Philip, Andrew and Esther

Fifth Dive: Dive site – Caves, Norman Reef. Great Barrier Reef, FNQ

My first fun dive with Kevin. We sank down to about 12 m and began to swim to the reef. As we commenced exploration we began to slowly move up to the 0-5m zone. I began to have no end of problems with my buoyancy. I was like a yoyo and was completely perplexed. Kevin lost me twice, I was right above him. Apparently the wetsuit was expanding in that <5 m zone and making me more buoyant. Consequently adjusting the BCD created an exaggerated motion. Scoping out the reef with Kevin nice and slow was nice. It not that different from snorkelling. I thought I’d like to look under the ledges. There didn’t appear to be anything more interesting under them. So the jury is still out whether it’s the best option for reef watching. June 5th 2010. Rusty’s market in Cairns had a sour dough baker. She said her olive bread was so dense and heavy you could rob a bank with it. Caught up with Wendy and Rob. It was great seeing them. Had a little sail up trinity Inlet.