Stormbound

Well, yes, it has been a while since I last posted, but plenty going on, though no time to pick up the iPad. Today is Thursday (I am pretty sure) and we are parked in a comfortable berth (D21) in Mooloolaba. We have had a clean-fest on board, showered all round, general dry out and done the laundry. But what, I hear you say, have you been doing since Monday afternoon?

We past Cape Byron where the seas were a nasty short chop with what little breeze there was against the current. A bit bouncy and uncomfortable and the breeze built but totally on the nose and too light (about 8 knots max) to make it worth our sailing. We plugged on with the engine, running watches, past Point Danger with Victoire racing hot on our heels! We arrived at the Southport Seaway with several of the top ten yachts in the race fleet, feeling very satisfied not to have been trying to race in those conditions!

It was around 4:30am Tuesday, when we docked at the Southport Yacht Club fuel dock to await Russell the dock master to let us know where to berth. Choppa and Snowy headed to showers while Pete found a dock person who promptly told us we were at the wrong Marina. Sure enough, checked my phone and I had called the Mirage, not SYC! Crew retrieved, clean and fresh and we powered over to Mirage and moored at the fuel dock and went to sleep until Russell arrived!

At 9am, I finally got my longed for shower and a convenient berth next to the office. The rest of the day was consumed with cooking meals for the next 2 nights at sea and entertaining Steve, Choppas brother, who popped to see us as he lives locally.

The cooking was undertaken because the weather forecast was indicating windy conditions ahead, though generally the wind was Coming from the west and south. It’s easier to have food you can just reheat in tougher conditions, so I cooked two meals as we anticipated two nights at sea. Until this point, I had been preparing meals each day, which had been easy in the conditions we had. The forecast continued to mature into what we now saw as pretty hard, but with a day of lighter northwesterly winds ahead of the mean stuff we felt we could make good progress up the track to get ahead of the worst weather which looked set to affect the Gold Coast.

With everything ready for a departure on Wednesday with the outgoing tide at about 9 am, we sought a restaurant for dinner. Very happily we found “the BEST tapas on the Gold Coast” where we had a sensational dinner and a lovely bottle of wine. We then retired for an early night (I was in bed at 8:30!).

Wednesday dawned fine after a night of rain, and we headed off up the Broadwater passing the seaway tower around 9:30am. This was our first day of serious whale watching, where Pete got THE breaching whale picture, but we saw plenty more all along the track until it was too dark to see them. It was great to finally see these lovely creatures, clearly having an absolute ball in the ocean. We had started the day with a reef in the main and a full jib, with the forecast saying the northwesterly would back around to the south. We made fast progress up North Stradbrook island, despite the distractions of Whales!

However, the weather did not play nice and the forecast changed rapidly, to indicate the expected southerly backing would not happen until much later and the wind would stay in the northwest and get stronger before backing to the south. There were now gale warnings current for the three areas we would be in for Thursday and Friday. As we reduced sail, our speed stayed around 8-9 knots which meant we were tracking to plan to get around Fraser before the worst weather and to Rosslyn Bay early Friday. However, when we finally took down the main and went to storm jib alone, our sped reduced to just 3-4 knots over the ground, as as the seas were short and steep as well as beam on, the ride was wild, uncomfortable and wet. When we checked in with Coast Guard Mooloolaba at about 7 pm, they clearly thought we were stupid to continue with the conditions as they were and gale warnings in force. We had a crew meeting, and despite the fact it would mean 20 miles into the wind and seas, we made the decision to stop at Mooloolaba. It looked like most of the boats who had left Southport around the same time as us were also heading in there.

Choppa had taken a spill down stairs as we fell off a particularly big wave, and felt a little sick, so we sent him to bed. Snowy, Pete and I took it in turns to have a quick dinner below, while we hand steered to avoid the worst of the waves. With the engine assisting and the storm jib helping we got within 7 miles of Mooloolaba, but we had been taken north, so needed to head directly into the breeze for the last 7 miles. We ditched the storm jib, and kept on under engine, and as we closed the land, the seas eased, but the breeze kept up in the 20 knot plus range. With about 2 miles to go, Choppa felt good enough to get back on the navigation to get us safely into the bay, while Pete and I discussed whether to enter the river or anchor. It being 4 hours post the high tide, and limited depth in the river, we decided we would anchor in the bay and wait for daylight and the morning tide. We checked in with the Coast Guard who agreed that our plan was good, and prepped the anchor.

At our waypoint, the seas were flat, and despite the wind still being gusty there was shelter in behind Point Cartwright. We dropped the anchor without issue, she grabbed straight away and we retired with the anchor alarm set, to a noisy, but comfortable few hours sleep. The cats were delighted to be stopped! At around 7 am, we got up, the Coast Guard were calling as we called them, to check we were OK and ready to enter the river. They were terrific and very helpful all through. Anchor weighed, we made progress up the river with never less than 4.5 m depth. It was funny to be returning to Mooloolaba after so long – the last time I was here was for one of the last Sydney to Mooloolaba races, when Suze and Dev flew out and did the delivery back to Sydney on OCL with me. That was about 11 years ago, and we had heard we could not get in here, but there we were, finding a berth at Mooloolaba yacht club Marina!

Berth D21 was free so we parked and confirmed ok with the office for 2 nights. Here I am, doing the laundry as I write this, in a very breezy Mooloolaba, with 2 full nights of sleep ahead. Bliss! I will let you know about the weather and the next forecast soon.

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