Wednesday, 20 January 2016

A Bundy good time with nesting turtles, new cruising friends, rum and awesome seafood while the wind whistles.

December 3-7, 2015

We certainly got our timing right by getting into the Port of Bundaberg Marina just before a strong South Easterly weather system moved up the Queensland coast. The wind built through the night and by morning our gauge was bouncing up well up into the 30s as it gusted rarely dropping below 20 knots at any stage. While Our Dreamtime was snug and relatively peaceful on her blow off marina berth inside the river, the view out to sea from Burnett Heads was anything but. It looked ugly. The forecast was indicating we’d have anywhere up to a week of these conditions so we resolved to make the most of our stay to show Marc around Bundaberg.

First up though we performed our customary complete clean up of the boat below decks and freshwater wash down of everything topside we do on the first day whenever we come into a marina. It’s amazing what you discover when you clean your boat. We’ve often found split pins missing out of rigging, chaffed lines, damaged blocks etc during this process but on this particular morning we discovered something a bit scary. Laying on the foredeck against the port toe rail was a stainless steel locknut. Clearly it had come undone from something but what. We’d been sailing in 20 knots the previous day so the thought that something had become unbolted in those conditions was a little unsettling to say the least.  So too was the knowledge that if the nut had bounced a few centimetres further and fallen overboard we wouldn’t even know anything was wrong now.

Just what you don't want to find laying on the deck after a passage.
We began scouring the rigging including peering through binoculars at every bolt on the spreaders and all mast fittings but when this didn’t reveal the source of our wayward lock nut Rob decided a trip up the mast in the bosun’s chair was going to be required.  Just as he was preparing to go aloft, the source of our angst revealed itself at the base of the mast. The nut had come off the boom housing’s  gooseneck fitting. Fortunately the bolt had stayed in place but we hate to think of the result if it had worked its way out while we’d been bouncing around in 20+ knots and three metre seas. It was soon back in place nice and tight and now included on the list of things to be checked regularly.

After much searching we found the offending bolt right in front of our eyes.

With that and our list of other boat chores done, we kicked back to have a relaxing afternoon on the boat catching up on some blogging and the like. On the other hand, Marc decided to do a bit of exploring of the local Burnett Heads area on foot. That's when it finally happened. After all our English mate's paranoia about Australia's wildlife and the possibility of him coming to harm on his trip down under by being eaten by sharks or crocodiles, bitten by venomous snakes, spiders or blue ringed octopus, stung by stonefish, box jellyfish or stingrays, now he was actually threatened by an Aussie species we hadn't warned (or was it teased) him about. We'd forgotten it was nesting season and Marc found himself under persistent aerial attack from a pair of swooping magpies determined to defend their nest from any pedestrian or cyclist who dared cross the field nearby. On his return later in the afternoon he greeted us with, 'Chaps, I was right. Australia is a dangerous place. Even your birds are bastards that want to hurt me.' We're not sure our raucous laughter was the sympathy he was expecting. A magnificent dinner that night in the form of the marina's special $30 seafood platter quickly reminded Marc why it was worth risking life and limb to be in Australia and all was forgiven.
Ocean Pacific Seafood at the Port of Bundaberg do these awesome platters for just $30 for marina clients.
Marc getting photographic evidence to remember another Aussie seafood feast
We then had a very sociable time over our five day stay in Bundaberg enjoying the company of cruisers from places as far afield as Malta, Sweden, the United States and many points along Australia’s East coast.
Marc and Karen about to sample the product at the conclusion of our tour of the famous Bundaberg Rum Distillery.
We also took a very interesting tour of the Bundaberg Rum Distillery, and finally managed to tick off one of Karen’s bucket list boxes by getting to experience sea turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs.
Mon Repos Conservation Park is a national park containing an important turtle rookery located just a few kilometres from the Port of Bundaberg Marina. It 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. In far smaller numbers the Flatback and Green turtles and, intermittently, the Leatherback turtle also nest along the Bundaberg coast.

Rob on Mon Repos Beach during our previous visit in August before the turtle breeding season

The Mon Repos Conservation  Park's visitor information centre is excellent.
We had visited the excellent information centre at Mon Repos back in August on our way north but were too early in the year to see turtles nesting. Their breeding season runs from November to March. The adult female turtles come ashore at night to their lay eggs in the sand dunes and about eight weeks later young turtles emerge from the eggs and begin their journey to the sea.

One of the nesting  Loggerhead Turtles we were able to get very close to at Mon Repos Beach

We were permitted to take photos for just a very brief time when the turtles are totally focused on laying their eggs in the nest they have created. At this point virtually nothing will distract them from the task at hand.
We joined one of the turtle encounter tours operated by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers during the breeding season. Beach access is managed to ensure that the impact of humans on the nesting sea turtles is minimal with only tour participants are allowed on Mon Repos after 6pm to witness this incredible natural journey.

Nesting turtles are easily disturbed by artificial light and movement especially when leaving the water, crossing the beach and digging their nests. Hatching turtles emerging from their nests are also disorientated by lights so people are divided into small groups and escorted everywhere by rangers.  When it was our groups turn, we were guided down to the beach in darkness once a turtle had been spotted making her way up the beach. We were asked to keep close together, move only where and when instructed, make as little noise as possible and not display any light at all, including phone screens.

Through the long night we were rewarded with the opportunity to get very up close and personal with three different loggerhead turtles and witnessed the whole process of dragging themselves across the sand up into the dunes where they dig a deep hole with their rear flippers and lay their clutch of eggs. They then fill the hole back in and make the long, slow trip back to the water. Females nest up to three times in a season. Being so close to these beautiful creatures as they layed their eggs was an incredibly moving experience we will never forget.

Despite getting to back to the boat around 2.00am, we managed to be up early the following day to catch the free shuttle bus the marina provides for a trip into the Farmers Market where we were able to stock with awesome fresh fruit and vegetables straight out of the fields. Held every Sunday morning at Bundaberg’s Shalom College this really is one of the best produce markets we’ve encountered in Australia.

Yet more seafood, this time lunch in the marina with new American friends Tom and Lilly off the ketch Tigerlilly.
The rest of our stay included sundowners hosted  by a Swedish couple on their very nice Swan they’d sailed from Europe that we had met on the markets trip and a yachties get together over more seafood platters in the marina’s cruisers cove. As good a time as we were having, we were still very pleased when the weather began to ease and we could make preparations to continue on our way South. Fraser Island and the Great Sandy Straights were calling.

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