Good bye, Yamba
After long time in Yamba, it was finally time to move on. 30. April we threw off from Yamba Marina for the last time – at least for this Australia visit.
With friends waving from the dock – friends we did not know when we would see again – it was sad to let go. But that is the way life is, on a long sailing voyage - at least when you have plans to sail “back home”!
The farewell from the marina itself was not much to talk about. We were almost ”thrown out” after a dispute about money. The marina owner did not want to credit the too much invoiced “live aboard fee”. Luckily this time we knew that such a dispute could appear. The same happened two years ago. That time we got some of the money back after Eivind threatened to write an article in the yachting magazine ”The Coastal Passage”. This time we did not pay the last invoice until just before departure. Then we were “sitting” on the money in case there should be a dispute. With the basis for negotiations on our hands, the marina owner did not have any choice but to accept the money the Captain wanted to pay…
Safely out of the marina we knew that the bar, the shallow area in the entrance of the river, could be a bit rough. The weather had been pretty windy further south the previous days. Breaking waves met us as we sailed closer to the bar. Then 1. Mate exercised her veto not to cross the bar. Instead we dropped the anchor just inside the bar – and waited.
Still there came breaking waves over the bar, but after three days of waiting the Captain meant it was enough. 1. Mate accepted a close inspection of the bar. As we sailed closer to the bar and the Captain asked for her opinion, she closed her eyes and said; ”I don`t want to see...”.There was a few waves breaking nearby as we crossed the bar, but we made it safely across out to the ocean.
Eirik who was 2 years and 2 months old by the time we sailed from Yamba, was looking forward to sail out on his “adventus” – his adventure at sea. Eirik already had more than 11000nm of long voyaging experience – we hoped he would be a good teacher to Marius, then 7 months old.
With different eyes
With many friends along the coast, the sail north this time got a different angle. We also knew more about what we wanted to see, after already two seasons inside The Great Barrier Reef.
Again we met the family Luxton in Manly. They welcomed us to Bundaberg in 2008 when we arrived in Australia for the first time. At that time they were on their way home after half a year of sailing inside The Great Barrier Reef – with three small kids on board. When we met them this time, in Moreton Bay outside Brisbane, they were four kids on board. Thomas signed on s/y Idyllic a few months after Eirik signed on s/y Empire. We saw that there was hope for our voyage – with only two young sailors on board!
In Rosslyn Bay/Yeppoon we again met Norwegian Margrete and Reidar. We originally met Reidar (then 73) in New Caledonia, when he was on his way from the Mediterranean to Australia – singlehanded – in a newly bought yacht. Later we have visited Reidar – and Margrete – several times – and they visited us in Yamba for Marius Christening and the 1.Mate`s and Captain`s surprise wedding. When we met this time it was for a real Norwegian 17.th of May celebration. While Empire was lying ”alone” in Rosslyn Bay marina with all flags on display, we celebrated the Norwegian National Day in their home in Yeppon – with salmon and potatoes and the Norwegian flag flying from the balcony.
The Great Barrier Reef
Further north inside The Great Barrier Reef we this time gave ourselves a bit more time. Whitsundays is a group of islands that all Australian sailors speak warmly about. We took the opportunity to explore more of the area. Many sheltered anchorages and great scenery makes the Whitsundays a sailor`s paradise. And there is a lot of charter yachts there… For a “destroyed” long voyaging sailor it is easy to look back to the places in the Pacific Ocean where we found really clear water and few tourists. Do not misunderstand – it was nice also in the Whitsundays.
We met Terje Dahl and his family again in Townsville. He sailed from Norway on board his Maxi 68 (22 feet yacht) “Coco Loco” in the beginning of the 1980`s – and met his princess on the island of Tuvalu. Terje found us first time we visited Townsville – and since we have stayed in touch. This time we also enjoyed Terje`s local knowledge, since the autopilot hydraulic pump needed new seals.
North of Townsville is crocodile territory. We sailed directly to the last crocodile free place on our way north, Lizard Island. The island is situated far enough from the mainland to be called croc-free. There has been sighted crocodile near the island a few times, but with the ultra expensive resort situated on the island any crocodile showing up are most probably quickly removed from the area. At least we saw no crocodiles. We enjoyed the beautiful beaches and nice swimming – and did several nice walks on the island – for as long as we could.
We also caught up with this year`s “long voyaging fleet” when we were at Lizard Island. One day there were 20 yachts anchored in the bay – 3 Swedish, 3 Canadian and 3 English yachts dominated among the yachts from all over the world. Only one yacht represented Norway... Most of these yachts were heading toward Asia this season, but also a few were heading directly toward South Africa – as us.
Children on a long voyage
The English sloop Trenelly had children on board. Eirik was excited. So far we only met one yacht with small children on board. This time it was Molly (2½) and Dylan (5) on tour with their parents Fiona and Jason. The day Eirik spotted the two kids on Trenelly`s deck he shouted as loud he could – ”Hello, hello!” Later there was kindergarten in Empire and there was playtime on board Trenelly – and onshore.
Since we haven`t met yachts with small children that often, the time has to be used wisely when we meet some. Sadly – often when we first have met, we are heading in different directions too soon. Luckily sometimes we meet again. Trenelly we later met again in Darwin. There was smiling young faces on both yachts then...
North from Lizard Island the coast is pretty deserted. There are a few settlements, but most of the coast is wasteland and crocodiles are ruling. We dropped the anchor in Portland Roads, again. One of the fishermen also anchored in the bay told us that the fresh deckhand on board swam ashore one of the first days they were anchored in Portland Roads. That was before the locals had told him that there was at least one 4,5m crocodile living stationary in the bay. The deckhand was lucky – he still has the possibility to swim ashore – if he dares…
Next stop was Margaret Bay. When we anchored there in 2009, that anchorage was where we for the first time saw crocodile in the wild. We were a bit braver this time. We took the dinghy to the beach several times. At least the Captain – together with Noi and Alan from the English yacht Rogue. We even took the risk of walking through the bush land. Somebody had long time ago marked a track to the other side of the headland. The track ended at a beautiful sandy beach – but no one used it for swimming…
Around the Top
The next stretch went around ”the top”, which is what the Australians call their northern cape – Cape York. We almost sailed like it was a regatta with the yacht Rogue when we left Margaret Bay, but none of us wanted to arrive in Albany Passage before after low tide. The tide can set with more than 6 knots, and that current on the nose would be no good. With the tide, on the other hand, we sailed quickly through the Albany Passage – toward Cape York. At 0700 local time the 28 of June 2011 we rounded Cape York for the third time – in the same amount of years. We thought that this time it would be a long time until rounding the mentioned Cape again. We thought so the first time too.
After anchoring at Possession Island west of Cape York, we headed across the Gulf of Carpentaria – the Australian version of Bay of Biscay. We caught a good breeze – from the east – that brought us quickly across the bay to “the center of the world” Gove.
As “usual” a few planned days in Gove turned out to be a week. Again we met our Australian/Swedish friends in s/y Kaylie. Frances, Ted and Bjørn sailed through Patagonia a few years before Empire. They arrived in Gove in 2005 so that Bjørn could attend school for the first time in his life – while mum and dad used the time to work in some money for their next voyage. Later this year Bjørn finishes High School – and mum and dad is ready to head off in 2012. Most probably also this voyage will take them to Patagonia…
A small world
On the beach one of the days in Gove “Harold” tapped Eivind on his shoulder, asking if he (Eivind) was the Norwegian guy… After an affirmative answer “Harold” told that he was born in Norway, but left the country as a sailor in the merchant navy when he was 15 years old – in 1951. He told that his parent on one side came from Vesterålen, and that the other side came from the southern part of Norway “or more precisely from Gjeving”. As Eivind was about to tell that his father`s family lived in Dybvåg (the neighbouring area to Gjeving) for many years, ”Harold” continues ”or Dybvåg, if that is a more familiar place”. Eivind acknowledged and told that his father`s father served as a priest in Dybvåg for many years. “Oh, Mr. Bogerud” said Harold, ”he preformed my confirmation the year before I went to sea – yes, and I knew his son, Per”. Per is actually Eivind`s father... Sometimes the world feels really small.
”Harold`s” name is of course Harald, but the aussies call him Harold. The pronunciation is easier. After a few years as a sailor 19 year old Harald jumped the ship in Australia. After living 18 months illegal in Australia he got the permit to stay. Harald`s life in Australia has been hard but exciting. He has been working as a gold digger and he has been digging for opals. He has been a cowboy from the horseback and from the motorbike, catching wild horses on one of the biggest stations (the big farms or ranches in Australia is called “station”). The station was the size of Texas – if that gives an idea of the size of the property. Harald also worked as a boilermaker and managed his own company. In 2008 he sailed back in to Gove, after a 5 year long singlehanded sailing voyage – to Norway! The stretch directly from Cape Town to Stavanger took 3 months!!! Alone!!! Today Harald is living a ”relaxing” life in Gove where he inspires others just as young, with his activities. ”It is still one voyage left in me”, Harald (75) says. Plans are ready for his next voyage, to Alaska!
In Gove we also used the opportunity to place Empire on the beach at high tide, leaning against a couple of steel poles. We had a few liters of antifouling left, from last time we painted her bottom (in Thailand) and thought those liters would be of better use on the outside, than hidden in a cupboard on board. Maybe this last layer will keep her bottom healthy all the way to South Africa?
When we sailed westward in 2009 we sailed directly from Gove to Darwin. This time we anchored in some of the beautiful bays on this coast. Too bad, but we did not swim in salt water at all, due to all the crocodiles hanging around. The only good crocodile is the one looking like a purse or a belt, someone said…
We planned to stay for some time in Darwin, but discovered that it was impossible to extent Heidi`s Australia visa. It was not only impossible to extend the visa, the lady at the Immigration in Darwin was not of the customer-friendly type at all. Luckily, except for this lady at the Immigration, all the officials we have dealt with while in Australia, either for earlier immigration questions, hospital and maternity wards, or children and healthcare have given us only positive memories.
Towards the Indian Ocean
When we hoisted the anchor in Fannie Bay in Darwin ready to head west, we had the feeling that it would be some time until next time we could drop the hook near the Australian continent. But again – so we thought also when we departed Australia in 2009. We hoped for a good breeze toward the next anchorage – it would take about 14 days to sail there. Hopefully thee would be a few days left of Heidi`s visa when we arrived, so that we at least would be allowed to spend some days exploring the atoll – the Australian Cocos Keeling…