Bundaberg Rum….and other stories

So the reason we had to come to Bundaberg is because Pete had another Sydney meeting to attend, and it was a convenient place from which to fly. We had a whole day here because we arrived on Sunday morning, which allowed us to get some rest after the 2 overnight sails. It was much needed. We had a quiet day, sleeping and generally recovering and in the evening we took a walk out to the Burnett Heads harbour. We got back as the sun was setting and thought it would be lovely to sit in the cockpit and watch the sun set, but as we got back to the boat, our outside neighbour, the Lady Musgrave trip cat was arriving back and blocked our view of the sunset! However, we had good people watching seeing all the tourists disembark, as well as a large group who had been camping out at the island for a week – you have to take everything including water! We chatted a bit to the crew as they finished up and they were very friendly.

We got up early as Pete had to be at the airport at 8.30 am, and breakfasted on deck as the days tourists arrived for Lady Musgrave! As they left the dock, we also departed to have a drive to the airport. We found it with ease, and then I had a car for the day! First stop, Sugarland shopping mall! I was hoping to get my phone fixed and there was a Telstra shop there but it wasnt open yet, so I did some browsing in Big W where I found loads of things that we needed on board!  By that time the Telstra shop was open and there was a person able to help. I was there for about half an hour, where they assured me they could fix it, but then they needed me to install IOS 10. As it needed wireless and an hour to download, I agreed to leave my phone there and continue shopping….a haircut and a visit to Woolies later, the Telstra shop told me that my mail was now coming in and the update had downloaded so all should be well now. Of course as soon as I left the Telstra shop wireless network, the email error re-occurred and once IOS 10 was installed, everything worked differently. By this time I was pretty frustrated especially when the Telstra shop told me the best thing to do would be to get on line and Google the problem to see if I could find a chat room solution!!

I had had enough of the mall, so I went to say goodbye to the ice age moving dinosaurs (yes, truly!) and decided to do a scenic route back to the boat to see if I could locate the pub and store apparently 2k walk from the marina. Sure enough, at Burnett Heads, if Pete and I had walked a little further last night, we would have found The Lighthouse pub and the IGA, and a bunch of other small shops. I decided to have a walk there tomorrow when I no longer had the car. Dropped my shopping at the boat, checked on the cats, picked up some swimmers just in case, then hopped in the car to go see Mon Repos turtle centre. It was quiet, with an interesting exhibition, but nothing more than a beach at this time of year. Apparently when the turtles hatch in November, it goes off! I then explored the locality a bit, found a servo to put some fuel in the car, then headed back to the marina to drop the car and cook dinner.

I had decided to dedicate Tuesday to cooking meals I could freeze for the trip home. From here there were few places to stop so we were envisaging the need to do the 600 miles in one go. At this stage, the weather wasnt great to start with, in that it would be very windy, making food prep challenging, so I figured having prepared meals would make eating easier.

Back at the boat, I decided to start the first meal tonight, making a little less to do tomorrow, so got into cooking straight away. By the time I needed to eat, I was  a bit over it, so had last nights left over fish taco. Then I settled down to finish Sophie’s book, Breathing Under Water, which I very much enjoyed. Having read it, I am now excited about her next book which she is still writing, her trip with us having been research for it!

Tuesday dawned warm and sunny again, and I had my first load of laundry in at 10, with my second meal in the freezer by 11. For my third meal, I needed to get a few supplies, so decided that after lunch, I would walk to the IGA. All the laundry done, a quick bite for lunch and I gathered my back pack, and set off along the road to Burnett Heads. As I was leaving the marina, a car drove past and someone yelled out “Sarah”! Despite it being the most unlikely place for me to know anyone, I couldnt help myself and turned around to see a huge white 4WD pull over, and there was Katrina Gates head out the window, waving! Katrina and I work in the same team at CBA, and Katrina and her family do the driving equivalent of what Pete and I do at sea!

Katrina was my inspiration to start this blog, after I read her blog of her family’s 3 month trek across the bottom of Australia. It was simply unreal to see her here in Bundaberg with hubby Graham and the kids, who I feel I know even though I had never met them! We ended up driving to the IGA together then they came and had a drink on the boat, and we chatted for ages about what we had all been doing in our travels. It was such a treat to have familiar people to talk with and to share stories about what food keeps best when you travel long distances! We agreed to meet up in the morning at the cooperage and then Katrina highly recommended that I go to the distillery for a tour.

Buoyed by seeing friends, I cooked another meal that evening, part of which was my dinner, then I headed to bed for an early night as it was very still and too many mozzies to sit on deck. In the morning I picked up the hire car again, met Katrina and family at the cooperage and admired the skill of barrel making, which is still very manual. Despite being tempted, I didnt buy one, figuring I would see if there were any with Bundy rum in at the distillery! After fare welling the Gates family on their way further north, I made the 10 o’clock Distillery tour at the Bundaberg Rum Distillery. Whilst there isnt really much to see – molasses vats, yeast vats and stills, you feel a part of the whole process and its a very well done centre. Best part was of course back at the bar, where you get to taste some of their top end limited release rums and their liqueurs. I didnt realise they did the latter, but when I tasted the salted caramel royal liqueur, I was sold. I knew that the 3 pack would maybe make it back to Sydney, but whether there would be any to share with friends on arrival…….

Back to the boat tocook another meal, have lunch and make some prepared lunches and breakfast toasties, and then it was time to head to the airport to pick up Pete. It was lovely to have him back and of course I had lots to tell him with all the food prepared, seeing Katrina and the Distillery tour…We decided that we would sit out what looked like poor weather for a day or two more, so we had steak and salad on board for dinner and caught up on each others news. In the morning we returned the car keys to the marina office and booked another night, which turned into 7 nights for the price of 5 plus a free seafood platter for 2!

We spent the morning doing jobs, fixing the cooker, fixing the scratch on the hull from Airlie, replacing the galley light so we now have a red and a white light, fixing various bits and pieces and cleaning. Then at 2 Pete went to collect the seafood platter. We had an Audrey Wilkinson blanc de blancs chilling to have with it. When Pete got back with the platter, it was impressive. Half a dozen oysters, a pile of prawns, a bug, smoked salmon and 2 spanner crabs…all the most delicious and best seafood I have eaten. We didnt realise there was a fish co-op here, but we will certainly be going there again as the seafood was fantastic. We gorged, unable to eat everything, leaving prawns, smoked salmon and some crab for tomorrow.

The rest of the afternoon past as the weather got more gloomy and the wind and rain picked up, but we battened down with full bellies and salted caramel liqueur to keep us warm and cozy. The storm passed through overnight, with plenty of rain and wind and thunder and lightning, but the new day dawned fresh and clear and we figured that now was the time to depart. We spent the morning making everything ready for sea, collecting the meals from the freezer and ensuring that we were ship shape, before departing the dock at around 11.

It was a glittering and gorgeous afternoon as we motored across Hervey Bay towards Breaksea Spit, the top end of Fraser island. However, no sooner had Pete bemoaned the fact that the BOM got the weather wrong again, then the expected weather came in! From a full main and head sail, we were very quickly at 2 reefs and a storm jib, with a nasty cross sea making a beam reach a little uncomfortable. Neither of the cats were happy, and the autohelm didn’t drive very well, so we resorted to hand steering which was easy and pleasant, but with 600 miles to go, we hoped this wouldnt be required the whole way! We had a very quick trip to Breaksea Spit, getting there well ahead of our anticipated time, and then had to head dead downwind, keeping up the manual steering. However, the forecast was for the breeze to drop, so we had dinner and started watches, hoping the forecast was on the money.

I didnt sleep much in my first off watch so was a bit tired coming up at 9, seeing we still had 22+ knots of breeze. However, I started helming and soon was wide awake, surfing down some quick waves. Pete had told me on his watch he started hand steering when the autohelm got a top speed of 14 knots, but Pete had not been able to top that. As i felt the boat pick up a wave i was thinking of that as i watched the speedo climb to 15.7 knots! However, when i checked the highest boat speed reading afterwards, it read 15.8 – i had again got the boat record!!! By the end of my watch the wind had dropped and backed to the south west, making the rest of the night way less exciting and ultimately resorting to the engine.

A clear morning dawned, with light westerly breezes enough to put the full main back up and sail a bit, but there was nothing by about 10 and we resorted to the engine again. The forecast for the next 2 days was good, but from Monday night it was looking like another massive low pressure system would go through NSW, bringing high winds and big seas, some of it reaching into southern Queensland. We would need to watch the weather closely for the next 12 hours, as we may need to head to Southport. After lunch, with a clear ocean around us, we had showers on the back deck as just as I was finishing my shower the engine started to make weird noises and Pete shot down to check it and shouted to turn it off. I quickly shut it down, and unfurled the heady as we had just enough breeze to sail and keep moving. The salt water exhaust pipe, which is a pvc pipe with a couple of 90 degree bends, had come apart at one of the bends and poured salt water over the engine and electrics.After mopping up the water, Pete managed to get in and put the pipe back together with some help from liquid nails and duct tape, and this seemed to hold, and though the pipe made a funny rattling sound, there didnt appear to be any leaks.

We sailed for most of the afternoon as we passed the sunshine coast, but resorted again the the engine by about 3 as we tried to get an internet update of the weather forecast. When it finally came through, it wasnt good and we decided that as our only stopping options were Gold Coast and Port Stephens, and the weather was worse down the coast, we would head to the Gold Coast.

Whilst the forecast at this stage was for strong northerlies, I knew it would be hell for the cats and I would be spending my time worrying about them and cleaning up after them. I admitted to Pete that having them aboard for our planned long trip wasnt an option and that my priority right now was to get them home, to allow us to sail without the need for worrying about them. We talked about this in detail and agreed that we would leave the boat at Southport, get the cats home, then fly or drive up to bring the boat home when the weather allowed. As it turned out, the forecast became much worse with gale warnings all down the NSW coast, so we made he right decision in any event, as we would not have carried on in a gale, with or without cats!

We had a very pleasant sail for the rest of the evening and night, in a 10-12 knot nor’easter with a low sea swell, making everything very comfortable. When I got on watch at 9, sailing along at about 7 knots with a full main and jib, the autohelm steering, I heard the unmistakable sound of a dolphin blowing. Checking it out, a small pod was swimming alongside and when I went up to the bow, there were four or five playing in our bow wave. I sat up there for about 15 minutes, getting covered in their spume when they came up to breath and laughing with them as they played chicken with the boats bow. It was awesome.

At midnight we reached the Gold Coast Seaway, and we dropped the main and headed in doing 7 knots through the water and 3 knots over the ground against a tide roaring out of the Broadwater! It was one of the trickier entrances, especially with a dredge blocking half the channel. We eventually got to Mariners Cove, as the Southport Yacht Club had once again been very unhelpful when we tried to get a berth, and we tied up on the fuel dock to await morning to hopefully book into same berth we had on the way up. We had a rum and finished off the lamb ribs, then took ourselves off to bed with plenty of blankies as we were definitely not in the tropics any longer! Everything else could wait for the morning.

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