27 September 2017
Bluewater Marina Cairns to Double Island, Ellis Beach
We went for our first sail today. We had our good friend Richard Dillon on board to share our new adventure. We left around 11:30am. Neil from the boat next door helped us with the lines. Al found it more difficult than he expected to steer in reverse, but he managed it okay before negotiating the shallow, narrow channel that is Half Moon Creek, avoiding the dredge, then heading out the the Yorkey’s Knob leads into the wide blue sea. I had to remember the routine of getting in the fenders and stowing the mooring lines. Winds were only around 5-10 knots and the seas probably less than a metre. A lovely gentle re-introduction to the world of sailing. We soon had the sails up and engine turned off, listening to the swoosh swoosh of the water against the hull.
Jemma the novice sea dog wasn’t phased by the whole experience. When things were hectic, she immediately went to bed in front of the helm when instructed and stayed there until the lull in activity.
Then wind died a bit, so we had to start the engine and motor sail for a while. We arrived at Double Island around 2 and anchored at the north west corner of the island away from the south Easter, but couldn’t escape the swell. The rolling was quite uncomfortable and I needed sea sickness tablets. Richard and I tried a bit of fishing, but the fish must have all been somewhere else that day. Richard read his book while I remained queasy and Al relaxed.
I wasn’t much help preparing dinner, but did manage to get some down and keep it there, before heading for bed for an early night.
Jemma having a snooze
28 September 2017
Double Island to Low Isles, Port Douglas
The rolling wasn’t so bad this morning, but we were nevertheless keen to get under way. But there was a delay. The engine wouldn’t start. Al to the rescue, diagnosing a loose nut causing a bad connection. Once the offending nut was tightened, no more problem – instant start. Whew!
We didn’t have too much trouble getting up the anchor on its new chain. A bit of lanolin spray worked wonders on the initial jamming issue on the winch.
We were headed for Low Isles, a marine sanctuary, so no fishing. The light winds again meant more motor sailing, but it was a pleasant cruise up the coast. There were a few scuds of rain about. One of the heavier ones enabled us to test out the previous owner’s practice of collecting water in the aft tank once the initial runoff had cleaned the deck, by opening the inlet and jamming a clean rag just behind it. It worked a treat, to our delight. The boat’s design means that all water runs aft and the couple of centimetres of toenail acts like a neat gutter.
As we neared our destination the marine craft traffic increased dramatically with tourists on all types of vessels. Once at the anchorage, it took us a while to get our bearings as work out exactly where we could anchor. There are also many mooring buoys, but it isn’t obvious which ones are available for public use, and which are for the tourist vessels. We elected to anchor, but as soon as one of the mooring buoys became available, we swooped. There was less roll in that position, so our afternoon and evening promised to be much more pleasant than the previous night.
We were astounded to see reef sharks, large gropers and other fish from time to time right next to the boat. I’m guessing they get fed by yachties and have learned to hang around the boats moored there. Despite my best efforts, Jemma the novice sea dog refused to toilet at all on the boat. I had been trying hard for weeks to train her to use the imitation grass mat at the rear of the cockpit, but she wasn’t having any of it. This evening she was looking very agitated when we went below for dinner. We soon heard her little dog footsteps on the cabin top. When she reappeared at the companionway, she looked more comfortable. Subsequent investigation revealed she had at last done a “wee” (albeit not on the mat) but nothing more.
The nice anchorage conditions meant I was able to cook and eat a proper meal – which made us all happy!
Fish swimming around the boat
Looking across to the Low Isles lighthouse from our mooring
29 September 2017
Low Isles to Bluewater Marina, Cairns
We had a lovely night’s sleep and wanted to head back to the marina before the tourists arrived in the morning. It seemed a good idea to head more easterly first to get a better line for the wind direction.
We had a lovely sail to start with, it after a few hours we needed to point higher to minimise tacking later, so we needed a bit of assistance from the mighty motor. The winds picked up to be around 20kts and the swell increased, bit Sea Otter 2remained fairly stable and didn’t lean over as far as our previous boat (a Halvorsen Gotland 33 called “Runaway Moon”). There was an occasional slap under the front part of the hull, as we had expected, but it didn’t seem to cause any problems.
Jemma the novice sea dog was looking uncomfortable, but it would have been a sore tummy caused by no toileting, despite my best encouragement. She didn’t seem worried by the movement of the boat, unlike myself! I am still not yet able to relax properly.
Richard got some practice learning how to reef the mainsail, and I learned a bit more about the process, and what the main should look like when it’s done properly. We still needed a bit of help from Al! As the bottom part of the mainsail has quite a belly in it, we actually went faster with a reef in. The fastest we got was 6.5 to windward, not as fast as Runaway Moon was, but we expected it to be a slower boat. It was great to see Al with a big smile on his face!
As often seems to be the case, it was a bit of a wild ride trying to keep within the very narrow Yorkers Knob leads in a rough sea. At the same time, Richard and I were revising the steps required to tie up in a marina. He helped me re-learn how to tie the fenders, and I helped him with the preparation of the mooring lines. Meantime Al had to negotiate a dredge and a large motor boat both at the narrowest, shallowest section of the creek.
We didn’t have any problem with entering our berth and tying up.
As soon as we had secured the boat, I took Jemma for a walk. She was in a hurry and lost no time relieving herself as soon as she reached the grass. During our short walk, she continued to squeeze a bit more out every few metres!
I noticed I was now suffering from **land sickness** already, after only 2 nights at sea. Land sickness is the phenomenon of feeling like the land is moving under you – particularly noticed in small enclosed areas like toilets and showers. Luckily it passed after a few hours.