Friday 28 August 2015

A bit of biking around while we’re land locked.

August 27, 2015

The last few days have been spent trying to organise what needs to be done to get Our Dreamtime back underway again so we can resume our passage north to the tropics. Gary, the local marine engineer, was on board again today and we have now confirmed the front seal inside the transmission is totally kaput. The transmission will need to be removed from the boat to be fixed. We could have gone with just replacing the seal but, as it’s such a mammoth task to get the trans out of the boat, we’ve elected to have it shipped to Brisbane for complete reconditioning and returned for re-fitting. (See our previous blog for the full story) It looks like we will be residents here in the Port of Bundaberg Marina for another three or four weeks. Such is life.

We're glad we didn't meet this guy in the narrow channel
 We are both determined not to get down about this unexpected hurdle so we will be making the most of our time here. Today we broke out our folding bikes for the first time to do a little exploring of the local area which is very picturesque.

Now it has to be said that, other than very short road tests on each of our bikes when we acquired them not long before departing, neither of us have ridden a bicycle since a day pedalling around the Dubbo Zoo with our kids back in 1989. To describe us as being rusty would be a very large understatement. Regardless, we pedalled off to the nearby small township of Burnett Heads and discovered a very nice bike path that lead down to the beach and along the coastline.

This historic lighthouse in Burnett Heads was our first stop
Within twenty minutes of wobbling away from the marina we were enjoying the very beautiful scenery and gaining confidence on our bikes by the second. We were having such a good time we just kept going with regular brief stops to admire a particular vista and or take a photo.
The bikeway runs right along the waters edge in most places
Photo stops were frequent.

Looking back towards Burnett Heads - Did we really ride that far already?
We eventually came to the world renowned sea turtle nursery of Mon Repos Beach.  When you stand down on the sand all signs of civilisation are obscured by the low, shrub covered dunes.

Standing on the Mon Repos Beach you could easily believe you were miles from civilisation

Rob getting his feet wet on Mon Repos
We really enjoyed the National Parks and Wildlife Service information centre at the beach. Mon Repos hosts the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the eastern Australian mainland and supports the most significant nesting population of the endangered loggerhead turtle in the South Pacific Ocean. Successful breeding here is critical if the loggerhead species is to survive. In far smaller numbers the Flatback and Green turtles and, intermittently, the Leatherback turtle also nest along the Bundaberg coast. From November to March each year, two to three hundred adult turtles come ashore to lay eggs on Mon Repos beach. About eight weeks later young turtles emerge from the eggs and begin their journey to the sea. Loggerhead turtles generally don’t breed until the age of 30 but management practices since 1968 are helping these endangered species live a longer life so they can keep laying until they are around 60 years.

We really enjoyed our time in the Mon Repos Turtle Information Centre

The only problem with spending half an hour or so in the information centre was our non-bicycle accustomed limbs and butts were starting to complain and we still had to saddle up and ride the near ten kilometres back to the marina. The old saying that once you learn to ride a bicycle you never forget may be true, but your bum and thighs seem to forget how to handle it. Just to add insult to injury, the northerly wind had picked up and we had to pedal straight into it without the option of bearing off for a better angle and tacking back.

The near 10ks back against the wind had us questioning the wisdom of such a long first ride.
After numerous rest stops along the way, we finally reached Burnett Heads and stopped at a small café to refuel with excellent beef and bacon sandwiches and healthy smoothies. We were the only patrons who chose to sit at an inside table despite the glorious weather simply because it was the only one with cushions on the seats. Our butts would not have survived otherwise.

Much needed human fuel
Renourished but not necessarily refreshed, we remounted and struggled back to the marina.  We may be a little less ambitious on our next two wheeled outing. Near enough to 20 kilometres on our first foray may have been overdoing it.

The marina at top left and Mon Repos Beach lower right almost 10ks away

Sundowner drinks have never tasted so good, with plenty of cushions in the cockpit for our weary legs and bruised butts of course.
Good night from the Port of Bundaberg Marina!

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If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway.  We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.


Thursday 27 August 2015

Bugger! A Busted Boat in Bundaberg.

August 22-25, 2015

The alarm went off in the dark at 5.00am and we dragged ourselves out of our bunk to prepare Our Dreamtime to go to sea at first light.  Ahead of us we had a 45 nautical mile (82klm) run across Hervey Bay to our planned anchorage in the Burnett River downstream from Bundaberg. The first order of business was coffee. We are both hardcore procaffeinators and can’t do anything until we’ve had a cup of wake up juice.

We then went through the tasks on our pre-departure checklist and were almost done when good mate Barry arrived to see us off and assist with our lines. In the early morning stillness it was hardly needed but none the less a much appreciated gesture. Our goodbyes done, the engine was warmed up and away we went in the pre-dawn half light just on the stroke of six.

The sun rose in the East as expected. Unfortunately the wind didn't but the swell did.
The forecast indicated a 10 to 15 knot Easterly early turning North Easterly during the morning which would be at roughly ninety degrees to our North Westerly course to the river mouth at Burnett Heads. As such we were looking forward to a nice square reach under sail once the wind came up. The first breeze we felt blew onto our backs from the South East and was just strong enough to keep our sails filled and give us a little one knot boost along as we motor sailed.

We assumed the wind would turn to its predicted direction as the sun climbed in the sky. Instead it stayed at our backs just off our port side and weakened to the stage we had to furl away the headsail and settle for what little push along we could get out of the mainsail and mizzen to aid the engine. What had increased and was coming square on from the North East was a one to one and half meter swell that had the boat rolling a little uncomfortably. That’s the way things stayed all the way through the morning. Oh joy!

Mid morning with aways to go but still no decent wind
By lunchtime the wind had actually dropped a little further while the swell had added another half metre. The sails were now doing very little to move the boat forward but did reduce the roll to a degree. Other than sighting a couple of whales in the distance, it was a totally boring passage. As we approached Burnett Heads the GPS showed our boat speed across the ground had dropped a knot from our usual 6-6.5knots under engine. The chart showed that significant counter currents can be experienced in the area so we put our slower progress down to pushing against the tide.

Bagara from the sea
Photos always flatten the sea and never capture the swell

We dropped our sails just outside channel into the river mouth and headed in closely passing a huge sea turtle that stared straight at us for what seemed like ages before disappearing below behind our stern. We selected a suitable spot to anchor for the afternoon and evening in the river just off the Port of Bundaberg Marina. There seemed no point in paying for a berth when we intended moving on again to Pancake Creek next morning.

Where we anchored in the Burnett River
Before settling in to relax and enjoy the smooth water after our bumpy ride, Rob did his usual post passage checks around the boat and below. He got a nasty surprise when he opened the engine room and discovered a mixture of oil and water in the drip pan under the engine. Investigation revealed the fresh water pump on the front of the engine had developed a leak. We have been unsuccessfully trying to find the source of a very minor oil leak for a while but the suddenly increased amount floating on top of the water and coolant mix that had leaked from the pump was cause for concern.

We went to straight to our spares locker and dug out our spare water pump but were dismayed to find we had no gasket to suit. We have a range of different gaskets in our collection but we had clearly overlooked a water pump gasket. As an emergency fix, Karen set about making one from a couple of layers of cardboard from a six pack of beer while Rob set about unbolting the offending item from the engine. We never got to find out how successful or otherwise Karen’s beer wrapping gasket would have been as no matter what Rob did after all the bolts and hose was removed, he could not get the leaking pump to separate from the engine. As tempted as he was to attack it with a lump hammer to break its grip, he decided the prudent thing to do was bolt it all back together, head into the marina in the morning and find a marine mechanic to do the job and hopefully also identify our oil leak.

We were both feeling a bit down about it all but hot showers all around,  followed by cold beers and an awesome feed of scallops and prawn mornay whipped together by Karen proved very uplifting as we enjoyed another sunset from our cockpit.

Food that's guaranteed to make you feel better.
Next morning, after Rob topped the water up in the cooling system, we started the engine and raised the anchor to move into a berth in the marina as planned. Then things didn’t go to plan. With the anchor off the bottom Karen engaged forward to hold us against the incoming tide but nothing happened. There was no propulsion and we began to drift upstream with the incoming tide. Rob immediately dropped the anchor back down and went below to investigate. This time in the engine room he found even more oil floating on the spilt water in the drip pan. A check of the hydraulic fluid in the transmission revealed there was only just enough to reach the bottom of the dip stick. The cause of that knot of lost speed the previous afternoon was now very clear. We poured in the litre of spare fluid we carry, refired the engine, engaged forward gear and the propeller pushed the boat forward perfectly. Whew! Back into neutral while we get the anchor up again and let’s go. No go! No drive. Same thing again. Back down went the anchor. Back to the engine room to find the fluid level was way low again.

OK so maybe it pumped the litre we topped up with throughout the gearbox and now it needed more. Except we had no more fluid on board. We only needed enough drive to move a hundred metres or so into the dock. In the hope that topping the transmission up again might provide drive for just long enough to do that, Rob decided to take the dinghy ashore and find some more hydraulic fluid – at a fairly remote marina on a Sunday. Yep better take one of our folding bicycles to go look for a service station.

We only had to get over there. So near yet so far.
As he reached the dock, a cruiser off one of the yachts in the marina was waiting. He’d seen the problems we were having and offered to drive Rob to the nearest service station about three kilometres away. That’s what you have to love about boaties. Offers of help are the norm. Thanks to our new friend, Geoff, we soon had another four litres of hydraulic fluid on hand and once more the trans was filled to the top mark on the dipstick.

Rob nervously started the engine again. We had drive in forward. We had drive in reverse. Karen took the helm and Rob raced to the bow to raise the anchor, but unfortunately in the short time it took to do that we were dead in the water again.

We dropped the pick once more and decided we needed a plan B. We’d use the dinghy and tow the boat over to the dock. With ten to fifteen knots of wind blowing this wasn’t quite as simple as it sounds but with Rob towing the bow with our dinghy and yet another of the boaties from the marina using his inflatable to push the stern over we were able to get it close enough for Karen to throw a line to more waiting hands on the dock. With the much appreciated assistance of a now growing band of helpers we were than able to man handle Our Dreamtime around into the first of the inside berths where we needed to be.

Our overnight anchored position at top and the berth we made it into below. Fortunately there was no boat on the outside of the marina finger at the time which made life a little easier.
And there she and we now sit until the very busy marine engineer here can get to us next week. Hopefully the problem can be fixed in situ but we couldn't find any leaking line or fitting. We suspect the transmission may have blown a front seal and will have to come out of the boat for repair. That would see us spending the next few weeks of our planned tropical cruising time here in Bundaberg.

Well we did say this is a shakedown cruise to find any problems and so far that plan is working well. Too damned well. Oh the joys of life on the water. Time to open a beer and a good book.

As we said in the initial blog about this trip to the tropics, it is a shakedown cruise, so in this blog of our northern adventure, we will continue to look at what we find works well for us, what doesn’t, what we do right and how we screw up. We hope you keep sailing along with us as part of our cyber crew and enjoy the ride.

What worked.

The willing assistance provided by other boaties. We would have been in trouble without them.

What didn’t work.

The weather forecast plus all the things mentioned above

What we did right.

Decided on a shakedown cruise this year instead of heading straight to New Caledonia.
Managed to get the boat secured in the marina where it can be repaired.

How we screwed up.

We carry a very extensive inventory of spare parts but assumed there was a gasket to suit the spare water pump when there was none.

Good night from the Port of Bundaberg Marina!

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If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway. 
We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.

Monday 24 August 2015

Through the Great Sandy Straights

August 16-21, 2015
The weekend before casting off on our shakedown cruise north to the tropics we had travelled to Sydney. The good news is that we had the opportunity to spend a few days catching up with our good friend Santo Rapisarda along with our daughter Felicity, her fiancé Daniel and our wonderful grandson Kristian. We certainly enjoyed some great food and good times with Santo as always. The bad news is that Karen picked up a dose of the flu down there. The viral nasty took a few days to make its presence felt but by the time we reached Pelican Bay at the southern end of the Great Sandy Straights she was down for the count.

Considering the unhealthy state of 50% of the Our Dreamtime crew we decided on a short move up to what was recommended as the most secure, and calmest of all anchorages in the straights, Gary’s Anchorage. It’s located in a very sheltered waterway between Fraser and Stewart Island. It only took a little over two hours to motor the 13.3 nautical miles up there with the incoming tide which saw us safely over a shallow area at its entrance and we were all settled in by mid morning.

Our Dreamtime peacefully afloat at Gary's Anchorage, Fraser Island.

This satellite photo shows our position at Gary's Anchorage in the aptly named Great Sandy Straights.
It was the perfect place to sit and give Karen time to get over the dreaded flu. It’s extremely well protected from all wind directions and has very good holding. The reasonably wide expanse of water between the two islands narrows dramatically at low tide as the extensive sand/mud banks appear but there was more than ample room for the five or six boats present to spread well out.
We were looking for a place for Karen to rest and certainly found the perfect spot
The width of the waterways shrink at low tide.
With climate change these guys are moving southward.
Meals on Our Dreamtime are a little less inspiring when Rob does the cooking.
Rob put the crab pots out and we were rewarded with a nice feed of sand crab. We also caught three massive mud crabs in the pots but unfortunately all were female and had to be released back into the water. One with only a right claw was so keen on our bait she came back for seconds and was back in one of the pots when we pulled them next morning.
Rob the hunter-gatherer at work

The wide flap on this huge mud crab's underside shows it is female and must be released. Good for the future of the species but very frustrating for the fisherman.
Karen got off her sick bed long enough to produce an outstanding crab omelette stack with haloumi for brunch
On the second morning at the anchorage, Rob fired the engine up to charge the batteries and discovered no cooling water coming out of the exhaust. A quick check of the sea water intake strainer found only a small amount of weed. It was not enough to restrict the flow much but we cleaned it out and began digging deeper. The brand new sea water pump impeller had disintegrated after only seventeen hours running. We can only guess that we’d sucked a jelly fish or something similar into the water intake when the engine was run the night before and the pump had run dry for a while. Three hours work later, almost all the pieces of impeller vanes had been recovered from throughout the cooling system, a new one installed and all good again with the engine. The rest of Rob’s afternoon was then spent unblocking the forward head (toilet) which had chosen this moment to stop flushing. After all, the popular definition of cruising is “Fixing things on your boat in exotic locations.”
On the left is how our 17 hours old impeller came out of the seawater cooling pump. At right is what it should look like.
We thought we should spare you from the blocked toilet photo.
Sunshine, warm weather and good rest was the best medicine for Karen to get over her bout of the flu.
We stayed three peaceful nights at Gary’s Anchorage by which time Karen was on the mend and we could resume our travels through the Great Sandy Straights on the Wednesday morning. Next stop was Kingfisher Bay Resort further up the western shore of Fraser Island. To get there we had to back track a little out of Gary’s and then wind our way up through some narrow and, in places, very shallow channels. The charts showed two spots we had to cross with depths of less than a metre at lowest tide. As we draw 1.5 metres we timed our run so as to be crossing these about ninety minutes before the high when there should be at least 2.5 to 3.0 metres of water under us. If we did happen to get it wrong and touch bottom, at least the tide would still be rising so hopefully we would be able to get back off OK.
Visible sandbanks line each side of the narrow channels in many places even at high tide.
 It's the ones you can't see you need to worry about.
It all worked to plan and we found we never had less than three metres under us, however, at one of the shallowest spots, we did find the route recommended by our Navionics chart went the wrong side of a marker and would have had us aground if we had followed it.
The dotted line of Navionics recommended route inexplicably leaves this marker to port when it must be rounded on the other side or you will be in trouble. The yellow line is our recorded track.
It was nice to run downwind along the Fraser Island coast with the genoa out.
After clearing the narrow bits under motor, we enjoyed getting some canvas out and sailing along the Fraser coast the rest of the way. Four hours and twenty minutes was all it took for the run up to our new anchorage off Kingfisher Bay Resort. It’s quite a pretty spot but the shore does shelve quickly so a bit of care is needed anchoring. We dropped in 8 metres and held fine with plenty of swing room to the sandbanks.
Even at near high tide, the shallow water can be seen between us and the Kingfisher Bay jetty
Kingfisher Bay Resort was a very attractive anchorage in the mild South Easterly breeze.

Rob enjoyed a peaceful afternoon in the sunshine but Karen was obviously well on the mend as she got industrious whipping up a batch of fresh pumpkin scones for snacks and a fantastic Rack of Lamb crusted in Pistachio, Parmesan and Scarborough fair Balsamic Vinegar for dinner. After a few days of Rob’s cooking it was a very welcome reappearance of the Queen of the Galley.
You improvise on a boat at times such as a crystal champagne flute becoming a cookie cutter for Karen's pumpkin scones.


It's amazing what Karen can do on the boat's bbq.

It was tempting to stay a while at Kingfisher but after being stationary in Gary’s Anchorage we kept moving on Thursday morning across to the mainland for a visit with our former neighbour in East Coast Marina at Manly, Barry Poole on his fly bridge cruiser Marking Time. He now has his boat in the marina at Hervey Bay. The trip saw us having a great downwind sail north west through the channel between Little and Big Woody Islands before needing to round the sandbanks and head back south to Hervey Bay. It was painful to have to roll the sails away and motor directly into what had blown up to a 25 knot headwind. The wind and waves also caused some pretty slow going with the boat down to just two knots over the ground at times.
It was fast but plain sailing downwind past Little Woody Island.
Motoring dead upwind into 25 knots was not as much fun.
The same wind also made things a little exciting manoeuvring into our berth in the marina. Our heart rates were certainly up as we approached the dock with more speed than normal to overcome the gusting breeze but with Barry on hand to take our lines we made it with no damage done.
Our Dreamtime on the dock at Fisherman's Wharf Marina in Hervey Bay.
A great catch up followed with cool drinks, plenty of tall tales and frivolity followed by a boaties progressive dinner.  Karen laid on an entrée of fresh pumpkin soup, followed by prawn mornay pasta on Our Dreamtime before we moved onto Marking Time where Barry had prepared his signature self saucing hot pudding with fresh cream. The evening was rounded off nicely with a Port or two. All very civilised for cruisers.
Yes it's another food photo but Barry's pudding tasted so good it deserved a pic.
The next day Barry was good enough to run us into a nearby discount service station where we were able to refill our jerry cans with diesel at $1.08 per litre. Quite a saving compared to $1.45 at the fuel dock in the marina. We also made a stop at a chandlery before driving up to nearby Burrum Heads for some sightseeing and having a nice lunch by the water at Toogum. Thanks Barry. It was a fantastic visit.
Karen and Barry after lunch at Toogum
One of our late afternoon visitors in the marina at Hervey Bay
As we said in the initial blog about this trip to the tropics, it is a shakedown cruise, so in this blog of our northern adventure, we will continue to look at what we find works well for us, what doesn’t, what we do right and how we screw up. We hope you keep sailing along with us as part of our cyber crew and enjoy the ride.

What worked .

3 nights stationary – Staying put for a while gave Karen a chance to get over the worst of her flu and recover some energy. Sailing without a crew fit and able is far from ideal and not only was Karen able to function again after the rest, she was also able to enjoy the experience which is the main goal of the whole exercise.

What didn’t work.

Water pump impeller – After replacing what appears to be a perfectly good impeller before we left ‘just to be on the safe side’ it was galling to have it fail after just 17 hours of engine running.
The Forward Head - `What can we say. It’s a boat. Shit happens.

What we did right.

Spares – we had a new spare impeller and the good used one on board as a further backup. Having now used the spare we bought two more new ones when in Hervey Bay.
Passage planning – Whenever we moved on through the tricky confines of the Great Sandy Straights  we took plenty of time working out the optimum timing to traverse shallow areas on near the top of a making tide. We never lacked depth under us and had the reassurance of a rising tide to get out of trouble had it not worked out that way.

How we screwed up.

Rob got a bit casual leaving Kingfisher Bay and rather than running through our pre-passage check list methodically, he buzzed about getting things ready. The anchor came up and off we went out far enough to get some sea room before turning into the wind to raise the mainsail. It was a bit embarrassing for him when Karen pointed out that it may be difficult for her to winch up the sail with the sail cover on and the halyard still tied off on the safety rail. We put it there when at anchor to stop it slapping noisily against the mast in the wind. Oops. Time to go back to the checklist.
Good night!

 We love to receive comments on our blog from readers. If you do leave a comment and you also have a blog, please leave a link as well. We'd like to click over for a visit and leave you a comment too.

To stay right up to date with what we’re up to  and see lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail Facebook page at Dreamtime Sail
If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway. 
We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.