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The Voyage of Spectacle Queensland

The Voyage


Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

The Position

Bali, Indonesia

The Pictures

The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for the ‘Queensland’ Category

Arrival in Coffs Harbour

Posted by: melissa

Yesterday, we had big plans to leave Newcastle at first light since Coffs Harbor was about 175 miles away and the East Australian Current is always a concern.  Unfortunately, we slept in so soundly, and then suffered some separation anxiety with the marina’s cheap, fast, and reliable wifi.  But we managed to shove off around 10:30 with a flexible plan of making landfall at Port Stephens (about 5 hours away), Coffs Harbour (about 30 hours away), or Gold Coast (about 55 hours away).

As we made our way through the channel, we noticed a lot of traffic.  One tugboat was leading a container ship out, and another tugboat was leading another container ship in.  Several container ships were loitering outside the breakwater waiting to be taken in.  Since we usually see freighters from afar, seeing one up close is a weird reminder of how gigantic they actually are. 

We made our way through the breakwaters and found a nice, calm, flat Tasman Sea … just like we like it!  Andy went below to check our position, and then I heard a loud booming noise.  I looked in the general direction of the noise, and having grown up within a couple of miles of an Air Force base, I knew that some kind of fighter jet was headed in our direction. 

The trick to communicating on a boat is the delicate balance between notification with a sense of urgency and scaring someone to death with a tone of emergency or impending disaster.  I leaned into the companion way, and as calmly as I could, I said “military plane” in a flat but loud voice.  Andy shot up immediately to catch the show.  It made a wide loop out over the ocean at fairly low altitude … deafeningly loud and very exciting.

About 10 minutes later, we had a humpback whale sighting!  Again, I leaned into the companion way, and as calmly as I could, I said “whale” in a flat but loud voice.  Again, you have to be careful not to communicate a message of panic or emergency, but rather just a really cool sightseeing opportunity.  Anyway, it was a pod of at least three whales traveling up the coast together.  We mostly saw their spouts and backs … no flukes or fins or full breeches this time, but very cool nonetheless.

The rest of the day was quite nice and uneventful.  I’m reading a book called Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.  It won a Pulitzer Prize and I can definitely see why.  Andy’s reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and constantly shaking his head at the disturbing tale. 

This storm, and the weather warning of high winds, chased us all the way into Coffs Harbour.

This storm, and the weather warning of high winds, chased us all the way into Coffs Harbour.

Unfortunately, we downloaded some weather forecasts and a weather warning had just been issued for high winds for our area around Coffs Harbour the following night.  As I mentioned, we had decided that if we didn’t make it to Coffs Harbour for a daytime arrival, we would try to press on to Gold Coast.  This new weather warning killed that idea promptly, so we had to pick up the pace a little bit to make sure we made it to Coffs Harbor with daylight to spare. 

And we just barely made it!  Literally, we had minutes to spare as a huge, angry-looking storm chased us in to shelter.  The slip was barely big enough to hold us and the neighboring boat already moored there, but, in his best performance yet, Andy perfectly threaded the needle.  Oh, bowthruster, how do we love thee?  Let me count the ways!

We grabbed the shower bag, stopped at the marina office, and per their instructions, opened the lockbox to obtain the keys.  We had dinner at the closest restaurant, and it was actually pretty good.  I had yellow fin tuna that was probably just a few hours fresh, although, I felt Andy’s brother, Erik, also known as the Seahadist (the seafood Jihadist), breathing down my neck for not eating something else (Artic Char?).  His overwhelming knowledge about, and activism to stop, overfishing are really cutting into my enjoyment of seafood!

Arrival in Gold Coast — Welcome to Queensland!

Posted by: melissa

Well, during the passage from Coffs Harbour to Gold Coast, we passed two milestones.  First, we said goodbye to New South Wales, and hello to Queensland.  Second, we left the latitude of 30 and higher behind us.  I am relieved to have re-entered the milder waters and warmer temperatures of the 20s … equator, here we come!

Our departure from Coffs Harbour was delayed by a couple of hours because of the tide.  Low water was at 10:30 a.m. so we waited until noon to give ourselves some leeway.  Plus, Coffs Harbour was hit hard by a recent storm that pounded the harbor and damaged the marina.  The channel entrance was still undergoing some redredging as part of the recovery. 

We went through the breakwater and headed offshore slightly, but only about 2-3 miles to try and avoid current.  As night fell however, we started seeing more and more fishing vessels, and we were forced to go further out away from the coastline to stay out of traffic.  The wind completely died and we were forced to motor as well. 

At dawn, we passed by Byron’s Bay which is the eastern most point of Australia.  By that time, I was heavily into my next book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is a plot driven page turner which is nice on long passages.  Andy highly recommended it, as well as the sequel called The Girl Who Played with Fire.  Evidently there’s a third in this Stieg Larsson trilogy, but we don’t have it onboard. 

Anyway, I was totally engrossed when a humpback whale surfaced and blew its spout less than 50 yards away from the boat.  It was startling, but so incredible.  We’ve seen a lot of whales now, and it never gets old.  It’s just amazing to experience such a rare and exotic animal in such natural way … no tour group, no whale-watching guides, no throwing food in the water … just observing a whale doing what whales do, and have instinctually done, for millions of years.  Being that close is like meeting a dinosaur or something.  It’s awesome, in the truest definition of the word.

The sun was shining and as predicted, the weather was really warming up.  I may be able to put away my Newcastle Knights hat and scarf for good shortly!  Unfortunately, 20 knots of wind turned right on the nose, so it looked like motoring the rest of the way.  Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise were quickly in view — it looks like Miami with sky rises and huge white sand beaches. 

The approach to Gold Coast was pretty chaotic.

The approach to Gold Coast was pretty chaotic.

We located the channel entrance mostly by following the 30 or so boats heading in after a Sunday afternoon on the water.  The currents going over the sandbar were weird enough, but the wakes of macho, speed demon, power boats bounced us around as well.  Dinghies, jet skis, fishing boats, whale-watching power catamarans, party barges … it was pretty much total chaos.  But, we turned the corner and followed the very distinct aids to navigation, easily found the marina, filled up with diesel, found our slip, and settled in.

So Long Scarborough, Hello Mooloolaba Surf Club

Posted by: melissa

Finally shoving off from Scarborough was a wonderful feeling … even if we were only motor-sailing in light wind a couple of hours to nearby Mooloolaba (pronounced muh-LOO-luh-buh).  We grabbed our good buddy, Graham, and headed out with a case of Toohey’s New for the uneventful passage.  Graham is a born-and-raised Queenslander and frequent visitor of the Sunshine Coast, yet he has never seen that stretch from the water and was mightily impressed. 

On one of his famous Queensland driving tours, Graham has taken us to Mooloolaba twice already, so it was already old hat when we arrived.  We were also pretty hungry.  During the passage, I tried to light the stove to prepare our lunch and the propane tank is dry.  Grrr … if it’s not one thing, it’s twenty others — we just got the stupid refrigerator going!

Caloundra from the sea on the quick passage from Scarborough to Mooloolaba

Caloundra from the sea on the quick passage from Scarborough to Mooloolaba

We parked the boat in Mooloolaba Harbor in the mouth of the Mooloolah River which is well-sheltered in the lee of Point Cartwright.  Immediately we saw a familiar boat and sure enough, we were greeted by Cutty Wren, who we haven’t seen since Moorea (and Fatu Hiva and Cartagena before that).  We checked in with the marina, walked the beachside trail to town (complete with turkey vultures and magpies), hit the Mooloolaba Surf Club for some beers and shrimp cocktail and sat on the verandah watching the surf life-saving club train in their red swimsuits. 

With so many examples from popular culture like Baywatch and the Beach Boys, most Americans would probably be surprised to learn that the beach lifeguard culture was born in Australia around 1907 as a response to several drowning accidents at Sydney-area beaches.   Surf lifesaving clubs are a very popular tradition throughout Australia with some 305 clubs patrolling over 400 beaches with 24,968 members as of 2004.

A “Lifeguard” is a paid employee patrolling the beach.  A “Surf Lifesaver” is a volunteer who provides additional support during periods of high beach traffic (summer, unseasonably warm weekends, public holidays, etc.), organizes community programs such as swimming lessons, and sponsors festivals and competitions.

Established in 1922, the Mooloolaba Surf Club is one of the oldest surf and life-saving clubs in Australia.  It’s the epicenter for the town’s social calendar and even publishes an annual report.

Ooh Ah, Mooloolaba

Posted by: melissa

Although Noosa is my favorite Sunshine Coast destination, Mooloolaba is really nice as well.  To put it in Southern California terms, if Noosa is like a small Laguna Beach, Mooloolaba is like a small Huntington Beach.  The beach is absolutely amazing and the Esplanade is very charming.  We found a fantastic Indian food restaurant, although with AUS$9 Kingfishers, we racked up some pretty hefty tabs! 

The Beach at Mooloolaba from the Boardwalk

The Beach at Mooloolaba from the Boardwalk

With a population of about 10,000, Mooloolaba is 60 miles from Brisbane making it an easy beach getaway.  The word, Mooloolaba, is probably derived from the Aboriginal word “mulu” meaning snapper fish, or “mulla” meaning red-bellied black snake.

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