Now that we are back from our eight weeks at sea, covering an ambitious 1500 nautical miles from Yeppoon in North Queensland to Port Albert in Victoria, people have been asking us “what was it like, really”? So here it is, warts and all.
Unusual weather conditions
Heatwave, thunderstorms, then heavy rainfall, and most of all strong persistent contrary winds were a feature of this trip. This was the worst cruise weather wise we have experienced. All this affected our voyage in ways we had not anticipated:
- Take It Easy the motor boat – We did an incredible amount of motoring. Usually on our summer cruises, a quarter of the distance is covered via motoring or motor-sailing. But this time, three quarters of it was spent motoring, with significant impact on the hip pocket!
- A long way to go in 8 weeks –It could have been straight forward and very manageable in the right conditions. During our summer cruises, we normally expect to have at least a week’s stop because of contrary weather; it is part of sailing. But we got stuck for extended periods of 3 to 7 days not just once or twice, but 8 times: at the Keppels, Bundaberg, Fraser Island, Moreton island, Iluka, Port Macquarie, Moruya, and even in the Gippsland Lakes. This meant we spent excessive time ‘waiting’ in places we would not normally have, and could not stop in anchorages we would have loved to explore or linger at.
- Long tedious passages – Because of the delays, we were for ever in catch up mode. Overnighters and 12 to 14 hour day sails are not much fun and we had more of these than we would have hoped. When the wind was with us, we had to make use of it! One of the unexpected side effects of extended stops is that it can be hard to get your sea legs. Wade was not too bad, but I suffered from sea sickness a lot more than usual right till the last day, and could not read or write underway, which made the long passages even more tedious.
So although we made the most of what we experienced, it felt a bit like hard work.
The absolute highlights were the time we spent on the Great Barrier Reef, and with friends along the way. The Reef was such a magic place. We will definitely spend time exploring the Southern Great Barrier Reef again and the Swains Reef when work no longer gets in the way of our fun. Spending time with friends was also really nice: Andrew & Trish on Sengo around Fraser Island, Elgar & Claire at Iluka, Lisa & Waz in Port Macquarie, Chris at Moruya, Baz at Moruya and Bermagui, Dicky at Lakes Entrance, and finally Trevor at Port Albert. It was great to catch up and a lovely way to spend time together on non-sailing days.
We had some good sails and managed some fun manoeuvres, like anchoring under sail downwind as we were arriving in a bay to meet our sailing friends on Sengo. It was an impressive flick and Wade is still chuffed about it!
I had some very satisfying practice with the camera, especially underwater and nature photography, and have material for multiple articles in yachting and photography magazines.
We are happy with the way the boat handled – no drama, just normal bits of maintenance. And we are very pleased with our electrical system – lithium batteries, inverter, solar panels and wind generator. For the first time, we did not worry about power consumption. Fridge and freezer worked ceaselessly, computers were used at will, we charged our cameras and phones on demand.
We learnt about bar crossings! We had never gone into so many barred river entrances to hide. We normally favour open anchorages or little nooks, but when big blows descend on you, you’d better be ‘holed in’. These experiences reinforced what we already knew: any bar can be mean in the wrong conditions. So it is best to cross on a high flood tide, in daylight when you can see the sea state. It is best to avoid crossing at a low ebbing tide, when the water is shallow, when the wind is against the tide, or in darkness. We might run the gauntlet a few times, but we know that cat of ours might run out of lives!
We also came to understand it is a fine line between being challenged and pushing too hard. A cruise is much more enjoyable when we do not demand too much of ourselves and of the boat, and when we take our time. In fact it is preferable if we are less ambitious while we are on a schedule limited by work demands.
Would we do a long distance cruise again? Not while we are still working. It was too far to go. But then we had no choice. We had to bring Take It Easy back after the winter cruise with my family.
Where to next?
Interestingly, we were thinking before this trip that for our 2016/17 Summer Cruise we would embark on a circumnavigation of Tasmania, braving the West Coast for the first time. But just after entering the Gippsland Lakes, we both said out loud: “Next year, let’s just play around Flinders Island and the Furneaux Group. Beautiful, no pressure, no big distance, short hops.” So maybe we will be tamer. Or maybe we will display a case of selective memory. Time will tell.
As for the next few months, we will enjoy regular trips to Wilsons Promontory and nearby Bass Strait islands. After all, this is why we have a summer mooring at Port Albert. It gives us the ability to still enjoy short escapes in the ocean before winter comes and we return to the Gippsland Lakes.
We will now leave you with a gallery of our favourite images from this Summer 2015-16 Cruise: