Time to head south to Sydney for the summer season.
On 25th September 2015 - Pete and Sarah joined us at Keppel Bay Marina, Rosslyn Bay for the journey south to Sydney. A trip to Rosslyn Bay is not complete without a trip to the Fishermans Market or the Capricornia Cruising Yacht Club
First stop, when the wind eased, was Great Keppel Island where we showed Sa & Pete the cruising way with sundowners on the beach with all the other cruising sailors.
After that we were heading for the reef - after lots of local advice we settled on North West Island for our first reef experience (on this leg of the trip) and it didn't let us down. On the sail from Great Keppel to North West Island we were blessed with heaps of sea-pets to keep us company - whales, dolphins and a shark. With the recent siting of the shark our senses were heightened and when we arrived at North West Island desperate for a swim in the clear blue waters we paused to identify some unknown creatures in the water which looked scarely close to the fins of sharks, but they weren't moving in quite the right way. We paused for lunch to assess the situation and finally figured out they were manta rays. Suddenly everyone wanted to jump in again!
We went for a budgie ride to get to the reef and then went for a snorkel in. Pete was lucky enough to swim with the manta rays a little bit later. All very special.
We settled in for the night enjoying celebratory champagne for arriving in paradise with a spectacular sunset followed by a full moon rise. Perfection - with very few boats around us.
The next day we left for Fitzroy Reef and went via Heron Island and Wistari Reef. There was a nice wide channel between the two with incredible green waters showing us where the reef was. Again dolphins and whales to great our arrival at Fitzroy Reef.
The channel to get into the lagoon was terrifyingly narrow with a strong current but very deep so we were all stationed to a position - bow and at the shrouds - to assist Paul in the navigation of the channel. We could all breathe again once we'd anchored clear of bommies and could see the anchor on the bottom in 9m of water. Incredible.
Lunch then a snorkel was the plan, which wasn't as successful as we'd hoped - suffice to say our trip to Fitzroy Reef was cut short with a little accident which required Paul to get medical assistance. Crew stepped into action promptly and in text book fashion with the medical kit followed by a pan pan.
Thankfully we were assisted by an incredible boat called "Hooked on Two" from Hooked on 1770 Fishing Charters who came to our assistance and took Paul to 1770 for onward transfer to Bundaberg Hospital.
Pete, Sarah and I sailed the boat overnight to Bundaberg where we caught up with Paul - who seemed very happy to be surrounded by attentive nurses!
After 24 hours and safe in the knowledge that Paul was being looked after in hospital we continue the journey south to make the tide window to go through the Great Sandy Strait. The plan was for Paul to meet us in Southport of Tin Can Bay.
We stopped the night at Kingfisher Resort before embarking on the 3.5 hour trip through the shallow and very shallow waters of the inside passage. A nerve-wracking experience but after 3 touches we were safely through and quickly made the call that we were NOT crossing Wide Bay Bar without Paul, especially as on the outside strong winds were forecast for 24 hours.
Tin Can Bay was a little piece of heaven and the yacht club seemed the right place for dinner!
The next day Paul returned to the boat with 28 stitches in this knee for day late birthday celebrations.
Thankfully the rest of the trip was less eventful - crossing Wide Bay Bar was still hair-raising but with the co-ordinates from VMR Tin Can Bay and watchful eyes on the leads, chart and the breaking waves we crossed it with no issues.
We were on a deadline to get to Coffs to avoid a strong southerly that was forecast to come in at 1pm in two days time. We smoked down the coast, surrounded by heaps of whales (one breached so close to the boat much to Sarah's delight & fright!) and arrived at 7am - right on cue at 1pm with tripled up mooring lines we watched Pilgrim tack in the berth as 55 knots howled around us. Glad we weren't outside!!
On 9th October it was time for the penultimate trip south to Pittwater for a few days refuge before the final sail through Sydney Heads on 15th October.
What a trip!!!!
For more details on this trip you can read it on Wine Dark Sea's blog (Sarah & Pete's blog).