September 8th, 2018. Our transit from Vanuatu to Australia was relatively uneventful (although I did have to shut down the main engine once [mid transit] to change out a torn stabilizer belt). Generally though, the seas were manageable with a favourable current. By the numbers; burning 755 gals for 1118 nautical miles, we averaged 1.40 miles per gallon which is actually our best yet! Julie and I had dived the hull prior to leaving Vanuatu – and combined with the current, we often saw 10.7 knots! The mood onboard was one of relaxed efficiency on a well-oiled machine. We were enjoying the calm and Zen of it all. As we approached the Great Barrier Reef, perhaps 6 hours out, I was disturbed by this deafening sound. It was getting louder and louder, (like a Freight Train), and the unnatural noise caused a dump of adrenalin coursing through my body. I ran out the Starboard door, and managed a glimpse upward, just outside my periphery vision. A 4-engined Turbo-prop aircraft screaming past, right over-head, so low – it was if I could have touched it.
The event stopped me dead in my tracks. As the plane was climbing back up into the air, I regained my composure and ran inside to tell Julie about it. Mid-way through my delivery, the VHF broke in “INFINITY, INFINITY, INFINITY, this is the Australian Border Control X-ray, Bravo, Oscar, Uniform, over” I picked up the mic at the Galley repeater station and answered the call. The ABF had been expecting me (through my email communication from Vanuatu), and were just checking up on who was about to enter Australian waters. I am still left with this feeling of professionalism, and awe, with the ABF. Welcome to Australia!
We threaded our way through the Great Barrier Reef over-night, and tied up at Mackay Customs dock at 1730. (Exactly when ABF was closing for the night). Unfortunately, this was September 9th, 2018 – our 30th Wedding Anniversary. ❤️ We could see and hear the festivities of modern society, but we could not join in. We could not leave the vessel until cleared by Australian customs. Not to worry, we counted our blessings for a quick, smooth and safe passage from Vanuatu, and really, what more could a cruiser ask for?
Our check-in into the country of Australia went smoothly, (visited by several agents and their dogs), and about 4 hours later, we were finally provided with an Australian Control Permit – good for a year. We let go the ropes and headed up North, to Abell Point Marina in Airlie Beach – the launch pad into the Whitsunday Islands.
Ropes on, all secure at Abell Point Marina in Airlie Beach. Seems both nostalgic and a bit weird that Julie and I are back here again. We first visited Airlie Beach 30 years ago. We were living in England at the time, and had back-packed our way through NZ, Australia and south east Asia. We certainly didn’t have much at that time, and now felt a proud moment that we were visiting again in our own yacht. Sometimes, you get these reasurances from life that you must be doing something right.
As we were approaching Australia, Julie and I would often talk about what we were going to do when we got there. I spent hours describing how we would spend our days sailing, paddle-boarding, and diving the Great Barrier Reef. Julie asked about sharks, and I quickly assured her that there was nothing to be worried or concerned about.
Oh, how wrong I was…
The same week we arrived Australia, there were 3 shark attacks! I didn’t know what to say 😬
As our time in Australia was unfolding, we were becoming aware of the other natural predators out to get ya. If the sharks didn’t spoil your day, the Box Jellyfish would! The threat of salt water Crocs loomed. And of course we were moored in an area which is exposed to Cyclone Season, so that was also a concern. It became apparent why Australians have a reputation as tough, hardy souls.
In 2019, there were also many Tropical Cyclone warnings.
But, it’s not all gloom and doom! 😀
The town of Airlie Beach is the region’s central hub and has had some major development in the last 30 years. Right in the heart of the town is this splendid public pool and recreation facility. We spent days there, lounging around the beach & pool areas, and visiting the shops, cafe’s and restaurants. All this, just a few minutes walk along the boardwalk from the Marina. I could certainly get used to this!
The Whitsunday Islands are located on the northeast coast of Queensland, and are considered the central jumping-off point for exploring the Great Barrier Reef. There are 74 Islands in the Whitsunday chain which lie between a huge stretch of coral, teeming with marine life. Most of the islands are uninhabited. They’re characterized by dense rainforest, hiking trails and white sand beaches.
We anchored INFINITY in Chance Bay and had much of it to ourselves. The odd sailboat, tour boat or float plane would drop by from time to time – just giving the right proportionate feeling of community vs total isolation. The water was clear and the beaches pristine. While anchored in this spot one day, Julie and I discussed how great it would be to have a Drone to capture the splendour of the place. Lightbulb moment! We looked at each other, and without saying a word, I got up and pulled the sat phone from it’s cradle and we ordered a Drone from Canada right there on the spot. We’ll pick it up the next time we fly back to Vancouver.
In between our Island hopping, we slipped into Hamilton Island (‘Hammo’) to stay for a week. After all, it was my 54th Birthday, and what better reason to push the boat out? Recalling our time onboard INFINITY, I fondly remember spending my 50th in Mexico, my 51st & 52nd in Hawaii. I’m liking this Boat/Birthday theme. 😜
As we were moving around the Island and taking photos, I distinctly remember how the last couple of years had an unmistakably ‘Southern Hemisphere’ energy to it. It never dawned on me before. But now for some reason, I had become aware that we were well south of the equator, and a visitor here. The good news is that we are being treated well! 😀
Back in our Marina – which has now had a corporate name change from Abell Point Marina, to CORAL SEA MARINA. The ebb and flow of friends’ vessels is a daily occurance. I particularly like Nick’s taste in boats. Fine eye. 😉
Julie and I were thinking of continuing our travels North, up to the Kimberleys, and ultimately push into Indonesia. As our plans were developing, it quickly became apparent that we had a rather large wish-list of work for the vessel, and realized that Australia was probably the best place to get all this accomplished. Our agreed destination for the yard work was Gold Coast City Marina in Coomera, QLD. Just prior to our departure, I received a call from Jeff Merrill to see if I was available for a pre-purchase survey for a unique vessel. Perfect. The vessel was in Bundaberg, and it was on the way to GCCM!
This is the vessel which I surveyed for a client in California. It’s a 28m Aluminum Wave Piercing Trimaran. It was originally constructed and used as a passenger ferry for Lady Musgrave Island. Our client has plans to convert this impressively fast vessel into a personal yacht. I’m happy to report that my preliminary inspections carried over to a successful sale. The vessel is now in Sydney, awaiting international shipping to California.
During our time in Bundaberg, Jay and I thought we’d take the bus into town and discover what Bundaberg had to offer. We overstayed our time shopping though, and missed the last bus (which was 1pm!) back to the Marina . We thought we’d walk back, “we could use the exercise” – but that’s when we learned it was 22 kms to the marina!, and we were in flip-flops. oops. No matter, we had all day – and it took all day! We got back to INFINITY at 6pm, in pitch black darkness, and ready for a Bundy. 😉
The journey down to Coomera (Gold Coast City Marina) was OK. A little rough for my liking, and we had an autopilot pilot issue during the elevated seas at oh-dark-thirty, but we managed alright. We always do, we make a good team, Jay and I ❤. But that incident during the night pressed the importance upon me to get any niggly issues sorted, once and for all. We originally planned just to do a simple ‘bottom-job’ (hull anti-fouling), but our list grew as we became aware that we were entering a full service yard, and therefore the opportunity to power through the vessel TO DO list.
Just prior to our vessel lift-out, we received an email from our Quebec friend Justine Hamelin. Justine once lived with us in North Vancouver (early 2000’s) and has remained in touch with us over the years. She was taking some time out, traveling through New Zealand and Australia – and did we have time to meet up? Of course we did!
During our time on the Hard, The Sanctuary Cove Boat Show (Australia’s premier marine event) was taking place, and I took the opportunity to down-tools and attend, representing Jeff Merrill Yacht Sales as the JMYS Trawler Specialist. I had several meetings, and met many professional contacts. Yacht Brokering is all about people and relationships. Isn’t everything?
After wrapping up our Hard-stand activities, it was time to put INFINITY back into the water. For 2019, she is sporting a new Black anti-fouling paint job, and looks great! We had the grey hullsides polished while we were at it.
The hard part done, we elected to stay at GCCM for a few more weeks to continue our maintenance period. The decision an easy one, considering the close proximity of all the other yard services.
Delivery time! During the Boat Show, Julie and I stopped off at the Adjusta-Mattress display to rest our weary feet. Timing is everything I guess, because we’ve actually been considering a new bed onboard. These things were so comfortable, we bought a set. When John from 6230 – WALKABOUT, and Nick from 6212 – VERITA saw them, they also bought them. Standard issue onboard N62’s? 😉
While dockside, we prioritized our work where nearby vendors could easily supply us. The parts would show up at the Marina office, and they’d call us to come and pick them up. Every couple of days (for the next month) we received various parts and equipment to progress our work.
Just a few of the projects are mentioned below but many others will be documented at a later date @ INFINITY/MAINTENANCE section.
OK, here is where the fun really starts… Our secondary generator had failed us (long ago), during our Pacific Ocean crossing from San Diego to Hawaii, by ingesting salt water. I had a look at this job in New Zealand, but was told that the Genny was not salvageable. 😮 But, here in OZ, with a fresh outlook, I decided to have another look at this job. The stars aligned when I found Ron Marshall to assist and believe in the project. He said the job was doable and that’s all Julie and I needed to hear to give this a shot.
So, with the lions share of the work done and the pressing feeling to get underway again, we set a date to push back up to Airlie Beach. Justine was still with us, as she wanted to hitch a ride up North, and also experience a transit on INFINITY. With a little bit of pressure to get off the dock, and a somewhat doable forecast (certainly not great), we departed on a Friday afternoon. As soon as we nosed out of the protection of the coastal waterway, and into the Coral Sea, we encountered rough seas. I should have known. The forecast continued to deteriorate and this folklore ‘Friday departure’ thing was kicking our ass. The forecast indicated winds 24 knots from the south, but instead we were getting 35 knots from the east – directly on our beam. We were getting pounded. Our stabilizers were doing the best job they possibly could until our Starboard fin alarmed a feedback failure. (Of course, the usual scenario of piercing alarms at 0230 in the morning). I tried resetting the unit several times, but it was clear that we had sustained some damage. Absolutely no fault to ABT. Our stabilizers have worked like trojans for the last 19 years and 1 ½ circumnavigations, it was just,,, time.
I made the command decision to pull into Brisbane, to get out of this shitty weather, and get the Stabs looked at.
We approached Brisbane as the sun was setting, so we spent the first night at anchor in Moreton Bay. I dived on the starboard stabilizer to see if I could see any physical damage. Fortunately, all looked good, none found.
I had a few back-&-forth phone calls with ABT, and discovered a local Marine Engineering business (Stella Systems) who specialized in ABT installations. How lucky was that!? Stella knew their stuff, and the next morning Jay and I started disassembly of the Starboard fin once we reached dockside at Rivergate Marina.
These are my Notes from INFINITY’s Log – July 1st, 2019.
Richard and I completed the work on the Stbd Stabilizer. Turns out that the encastellated nut holding the fins’ actuator arm assembly, had come loose! The locking tab had sheared from the excessive seas and allowed the nut to rotate free. Nut tightened and the potentiometer adjusted correctly. We’re back in business!
So while we scored a win for INFINITY, we recorded a loss for our crew mate, Justine 😞 She had been diligently hanging out with us to visit the Whitsundays onboard INFINITY, but considering the recent events, I made the decision to wait for more appropriate weather, and this was not foreseeable for the next week or so. As Justine was on a schedule, we exchanged hugs & thanks, and said our good-byes. It was a pleasure having you onboard Justine, no doubt we shall see each other again.
Making the most of our self imposed delay, we toured around Brisbane city center for a few days, to see what this wonderful city had to offer.
We found the city to be a vibrant example of Australia. Clean, fun, and lots to do. Brisbane was not on our radar before, (not an intended stop), but we certainly enjoyed the opportunity to explore. Sometimes when you get lemons, you might as well make lemonade. 😉
Our transit back up to the Whitsundays (Airlie Beach) was blissfully uneventful. We waited for a good forecast and it paid dividends. (note to all potential cruisers; this is what you are supposed to do!) Anyway, the transit up was great, smooth seas all the way, and we arrived Coral Sea Marina refreshed and ready for more.
It was time that I had to go back to work, but first Julie and I had some business to attend to back in Vancouver. We planned to fly through Sydney (on our way to Canada) to visit friends (Nordhavn 62 alumni) – James and Claire from N62 PENDANA. The Ellingford’s treated us with warm hospitality and took us touring around Sydney and Pittwater areas. The last time we were all together was 2015, in Hawaii.
After our fantastic time with the Ellingfords, Julie and I flew back to Vancouver, and then back to INFINITY a few weeks later. I had signed a new contract for work, this time working Deepwater Installations in the Bay of Bengal, India.
While I was at work, Jay was at work on INFINITY.
But it’s not all work onboard INFINITY. I had returned from India and Julie deserved a well earned break. With the Coral Sea Hotel just around the corner, it was time to take advantage of the obvious choice. We spent days lounging around the pool and enjoying the Hotels’ wonderful food. It was just like a mini-holiday, and a great way to reunite.
And this brings us nicely up-to-date, (May 4th, 2020) right here,,,amongst our Covid-19 isolation exercise. We are all in this together, globally. Where this will all end up is anyone’s guess. I just managed to get out of India before all the madness started, and Julie and I are safe onboard INFINITY. We will be staying onboard until the international Borders re-open. So far, so good. We have everything we need.
What’s worse than Covid-19? Nothing like an Aussie reminder,,, Sharks again. 😬
So, this brings us up to speed for now. I will be starting a new Listing, most likely called AUSTRALIA – (Covid-19), and updating that as we go, (yes, as I have threatened to do before, I know). At least we all have the time to get to the things we normally wouldn’t prioritize, and I’m actually enjoying this part of the isolation restrictions.
You guys all stay safe out there. ❤