April Adventures

Category: Ships Log
 

April 2015

Another month has already disappeared and we are now nearing the end of April. Here is an update on what we've been up to the last month.

 

Temperature-wise, April is our favorite month so far. It has finally cooled down, so instead of being over 90°F (32°C) every day, it is now in the lower 80s (upper 20s). We can finally turn off our AC and venture outside for longer periods without fear of melting into a puddle of sweat on the sidewalk. And I can turn on the oven again to bake!

 

April 01

A lovely fall sunset at the marina.

 

This month we started taking advantage of free activity courses offered by the Brisbane City Council (BCC). It is pretty amazing, the BCC offers all sorts of free activity courses around town from exercise classes to arts & craft classes for kids to weekend outdoor activities. Since I am still unemployed, I’ve been attending free Zumba and pilates classes at nearby parks during the week. And on two different Saturdays this last month, Chris and I signed up for free kayaking trips through the BCC. We spent two lovely mornings kayaking in mangrove-lined creeks along Moreton Bay. And next weekend we will be attending a free tree-climbing course offered by the BCC! We feel pretty lucky to live in a place where we can enjoy these guided activities without spending a fortune.

 

April 1

One of the mangrove lined rivers we explored with kayaks.

 

April 2

 

April 3

Most of the larger mangrove trees here are the Gray Mangrove Avicennia marina.

 

April 4

At high tide, we could even kayak through the mangroves!

 

April 5

The roots of the mangrove trees are home to lots of animals, including all sorts of crabs. This is a male orange-clawed fiddler crab. Male crabs of this genus all have one huge claw to attract females, while females just have two normal sized claws.

 

April 6

Another shore crab, but we haven't been able to ID this guy yet.

 

April 7

The shallow muddy waters are also home to numerous small puffers, called common toadfish here.

 

The big event for us this month though, was that we took our boat out for the first time since we arrived! It turns out Easter weekend is a big thing around here because people get a four-day weekend for the holiday. It is similar to Labor Day weekend in the U.S., where it is the last big holiday weekend of the “summer” season. Everyone goes out camping, boating or BBQ-ing (although I think BBQ-ing is a year-round event for Aussies). Earlier in the month, we’d been chatting with several of our marina neighbors who were thinking about taking their boats out in the bay for the holiday weekend. Typically we aren’t big fans of going out when everyone else is out, but as Chris is working and this is the last long holiday weekend he’ll have in awhile, we figured we needed to get out and do something. We all agreed to wait and see how the weather looked before making a final decision. The weekend before Easter, we finished some extenuating repairs on the boat (re-embedding a shroud) and ran the engine for a bit to make sure it still worked. All seemed well and we were excited to go out “cruising” again!

Unfortunately, the Thursday before Easter weekend greeted us with heavy rain and thunderstorms, and the same was predicted for the rest of the weekend. Friday morning dawned grey and windy, so we all decided to wait and watch the weather. Friday also happened to be the starting day of a big sailboat race in Australia, called the Brisbane to Gladstone race. Gladstone is a small town about 300 nautical miles north of Brisbane and it typically takes sailboats between 20 (fastest time) – 48 hours to complete the race. We didn’t envy the poor sailors who would be battling the stormy weather all weekend while they beat their way up the coast, but decided to see the boats off at the Bluewater Festival in Shornecliff, a small beachside town just north of Brisbane. The morning was gray, so we brought all our raingear. However, by mid-morning the clouds moved off to the horizon and the sun was shining brightly. We had a great time at the festival, walking along the bay and enjoying some great bands.

 

April 8

Hanging out in Shornecliff and watching the start of the Brisbane to Gladstone race.

 

By Sunday morning, it looked like the weather was finally done being stormy, so we threw off the dock lines and headed down the river to join two of our neighbors already anchored in the bay, Merlin and Grey Matter. Except as soon as we left the marina, Chris noticed way too much water was gushing out of our bilge. He went below decks to inspect the engine, and found the nut holding our prop shaft had come loose, breaking the seal and letting seawater come in. This is similar to what happened to us in the Tuamotus, when our prop shaft was pushed in, and the seal broke. Luckily, our prop shaft had not pushed itself in this time; just the nut sealing the shaft came loose. Chris managed to dig out the tools in record time and tighten the nut while I tried to keep the boat on course with only the current to propel us forward. With the nut sealing again, we breathed a sigh of relief and revved up the engine. Although this time, now that the bilge pump was no longer spewing out water, we could see there was absolutely no water coming out of the engine outtake whatsoever. This is bad, because it means the engine isn’t taking in cooling water and could overheat. We shut down the engine a second time and Chris went below decks again to investigate our raw water intake. The water filter wasn’t too clogged, which meant there was a clog in the thru-hull. Chris managed to remove the hose and with the longest screwdriver we had on deck, forced a mini log-jam of wood bits out of our thru-hull. It seems when we ran our engine in the marina the previous weekend there must have been a lot of wood bits floating nearby that got sucked into our intake. Finally, about 1.5 hours after we pulled out of the marina, we could make our way down the Brisbane River to Moreton Bay.

The rest of the motor down the river went smoothly, and when we made it to the bay, we raised our sails and headed towards the southern part of Moreton Island, where Merlin and Grey Matter were anchored. We had a lovely sail, though by late afternoon, the wind started to pick up quite a bit and shifted to a westerly direction. This was great for sailing, but not so much for anchoring because the anchorage was exposed to the west. By the time we made it in and dropped the anchor, there was a good three feet of wind chop and our boat was bouncing up and down like a hobby horse. We noticed even our friends on Merlin, a catamaran, were pitching back and forth in the chop, despite them having the added stability of a second hull. However, our friends on Grey Matter, a Nordhaven 54-foot powerboat, were not budging at all. Nordhavens are very heavy boats and it apparently takes more than a few feet of chop to move them around! We soon got a visit from Grey Matter, who invited Merlin and us onto their boat for sundowners while we waited for the wind chop to die down. Soon we were all enjoying a wonderful evening watching the near-full moon rise over Moreton Island while sipping on a glass of wine from the stable upper deck of Grey Matter.

 

April 9

Sailing our boat for the first time in four months!

 

April 10

Grey Matter sitting solidly at anchor in the choppy water.

 

The wind died down during the night and the next morning we awoke to a perfectly flat, aquamarine anchorage. The water was an inviting 77°F (25°C) so we quickly changed into our swimsuits and jumped in. It was so great to be able to jump off our boat and swim in warm water again! That is one of the things I miss most about cruising. The snorkeling wasn’t very good (no reefs nearby) but we did see a tiny seahorse clasped onto a blade of eelgrass floating by. We also got to inspect the state of the bottom of our boat, since we haven’t cleaned it since New Caledonia. It wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be, but did still house more barnacles than we would have liked, so for the next hour we got to work scrubbing our bottom. Shortly after finishing, Merlin came over and asked if we’d like to join them on a shore excursion to Moreton Island. We gratefully agreed, since it saved us from having to lug our heavy outboard engine over the side of Green Panther onto Lil’ Panther. Soon we were zooming over the shallow sand shoals of the island with the crew of Merlin (a family of five), watching stingrays disturbed from rest swimming away from us. We landed on a beautiful white sand beach at the base of a large sand dune. It felt like ages since we’d walked barefoot on such nice soft sand!

 

April 11

Our nice calm anchorage on Monday morning. Merlin is anchored just in front of us, to the right.

 

April 12

The little seahorse we found hanging on tightly to a blade of drifting eelgrass.

 

Moreton Island is completely made up of large rolling sand dunes, and is actually the third largest sand island in the world. Many of the dunes or sandhills, as they are called here, are stabilized by plants, but several are still free of growth. One of the sandhills on the island, Mount Tempest (further north of us), is supposed to be the largest stabilized, coastal sandhill in the world at 280 m (about 900 ft). Apparently sandhills of comparable size are only found in Iran. Merlin, who has been here several times, brought boogie boards to sled down the hills with. We tackled a much shorter sandhill than Mt. Tempest, but had a blast trying to compete with Merlin’s superior skills at flying down the hills.

 

April 14

A view down one of the sandhills.

 

April 15

 

April 16

Alena launching off the sandhill.

 

April 17

Christian boogie boarding down the hill.

 

April 18

Heading back to Green Panther.

 

Too soon, it was already afternoon and we had to head back to the marina. We jumped in for one last swim and then started trying to hoist the anchor. But over four months of non-use was not kind to our windlass (the mechanical device we use to haul up our anchor chain). The gear wheels to bring up the chain were completely frozen. Chris sprayed a lot of lubricant into the wheels and we waited for a bit. After a few minutes we tried again, and could get the smaller wheel to budge, but the larger wheel refused. Bit by bit, we very slowly raised the anchor chain with the small wheel. I guess we now have another maintenance project to add to our list. A few hours later, we were back snug in our berth at the marina.

Anyway, it’s been a fun month, and we are also really happy we finally got our boat out again so we could work out the kinks of disuse. Once we fix our anchor windlass, we plan to take out our boat a bit more frequently to explore Moreton Bay more!

 

April 19

Back in our marina berth

 

 

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Comments  

0 #1 Mala Laurin 2015-05-05 18:24
Wow, Looks like you are living a wonderful life!! We are happy for you. Life here is more routine. We just got back from Cancun and were in Majorca in early February.

Send us an email when you get a chance.

LOve,

Mala and Dean
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