……. or just beginning.
For what started simply as a delivery voyage of 400nm planned over 14 days it has turned out to take almost 22 weeks to get my boat from Airlie Beach to Bundaberg. But she’s home!!!!!!
Following the last two attempts to bring her home this last passage turned out to be an easy 20 hour overnight voyage from Gladstone to Bundaberg. Easy, although we did motor or motor sail all the way.
The plan was to make an early start to the drive from home to Gladstone and then get her ready for the journey. In order to avoid the ridiculous cost of another one way car hire I convinced my youngest son to drive up with us and then drive my car home again. With only a short voyage ahead we didn’t need to pack many things and there was already a reasonable supply of food on board to get us through a weekend. Gladstone is just a two hour drive from home and leaving before sunrise was the best way to miss all the roadworks along the highway.
After sorting out the boat it was saying bye to Sam, checking out of the marina and we were underway before 10am. The weather forecast was for very light conditions so we knew there would be lots of motoring to finish the trip. Gladstone is a large port so there are plenty of big ships at wharves, ferries between the islands and lots of small boat traffic going in and out all the time. With the engine conservatively at low revs and aided by an outgoing tide we leisurely cruised along at nearly 6knots to get out of the main port area.
Big ships entering the port of Gladstone – best to stay out of the main channel
Yet another ship entering the channel
With barely any wind at all the engine continued to chug along nicely. So much motoring is in stark contrast to the mild panics I had on previous trips worrying about how it was going and stressing that the fuel would run out. A couple of other sailboats left just after us and slowly edged past as they must have had their engines pushing more than ours. Really the only suitable anchorage for us between Gladstone and Bundaberg is Pancake Creek. It has a somewhat tricky entrance and with our draft of 2m we would only be able to go in or out on a high tide. Of course for this trip late afternoon today and early tomorrow morning it would be low tide so anchoring was not an option. The original idea was to go through the night and with an almost full moon, light winds and calm seas it was a viable choice.
Bustard Head and Pancake Creek
From Gladstone to Pancake, which shelters below Bustard Head, it is mostly an easterly heading and from there we begin to round Bustard Head as the sun set behind us and turned south east towards Round Hill and then on to Bundaberg. I decided to turn off the engine and let it cool so I could check the oil and coolant – just for peace of mind. With a light breeze we hoisted the mainsail and let the boat drift at half a knot for a while. The moon rise was stunning. Winter here is a time of sugar cane fires, controlled forest burns and dry dusty conditions. With an atmosphere full of smoke and dust a huge red moon slowly rose out of the calm seas into clear skies. It was truly a wonder to watch. I added a small amount of oil to the engine and then continued to motor sail our way south.
Sun set behind us and the moon rose in front of us
Only a few lights from the Town of Seventeen Seventy and Agnes Water broke the darkness along the shoreline. The calm conditions obviously triggered a rush of powerboats heading out of Round Hill Creek heading for the outer reef for the night or weekend’s fishing. But once past Round Hill there was very little boat traffic other than one or two trawlers that could be seen slowly plying their way up and down the coast but that was all.
Whilst Michelle was at the wheel there was a big splash just off our port side. A lone dolphin leaping out of the water was checking us out. Dolphins are always a joy to watch at anytime but to have one play beside us and see the moonlight shine off it’s wet back during the night was a little more special. Winter has never been a favourite season and as the night dragged on the temperature dropped dramatically. Layer upon layer of clothes and jackets couldn’t seem to stop the chill seeping deep into bones. With a rough two hour watch on the helm Michelle slept while I steered then turn about I slept for a while. The journey continued easily and during the early hours of the morning we were soon able to see the dim glow of light above Bundaberg then the lights of the nearby coastal towns. Our travel had been much quicker than anticipated and we approached Bundaberg through the early dawn. Of course it was much too early to call the marina so we dropped anchor in the river adjacent to the marina and watched the sunrise over a very calm sea.
Sunrise in the Burnett River
I am not sure which was most welcome – the warm coffee or the few hours’ sleep whilst at anchor. The berth that had been arranged for my boat wouldn’t be available until Sunday so there was a full day at anchor to sort things out, watch the boats go by and rest up. After all this time to be so close to home but to be held up within sight of the marina was a little ironic. But then Sunday came and we headed into the berth and she’s home.
The marina and the end of the delivery trip was tauntingly close yet we weren’t quite there
So the delivery journey is finally done and has not been without the ‘odd hiccup’ but there will be so many more miles ahead. For now though there is lots of work to be done – a haul out and long awaited hull clean and antifoul, new sails, empty everything and sort out what and where I want to keep things on-board. Essentially, to make this boat mine.
Home at last