2002 Oct 16: Sailing south from the Whitsunday Islands

Oct 16: The settled weather over the past few weeks allowed us to visit several of the most beautiful anchorages and beaches in the Whitsunday Islands. Conditions were superb for snorkeling and beach walking. Northerly winds will now allow us to sail in a southerly direction for a few days, before the next “southerly (wind) change” arrives. We departed the Whitsunday Islands two days ago in the early afternoon, and covered about 200 nautical miles in the first 24 hours in moderates winds and slight seas. Motorsailing with our huge reaching foresail and one engine running at 2500 rpm allows us to maintain an average speed of about 8 knots. We have seen very few other boats, as we make our way south inside the Great Barrier Reef.

We have trolled a fishing lure for over a thousand nautical miles, with not a nibble, even though the fish seem eager to come aboard. Our first night at sea, what I thought was a large flying fish hit our deck and windshield and flapped around a lot before I went on deck to see what was the matter. By the time I had donned my life vest and harness and tethered myself to the jacklines as I walked forward, the fish had gone, leaving only a large scaley imprint on the windshield. We have recently been reading an article about the 52 species of flying fish. They use their tail fin to scull rapidly on the surface of the water to build up speed and become airborne, “flying” 150 feet at a spurt. They are said to be very good eating, and I wished ours had not flopped back into the water, but rather into our frying pan. The following morning Steve found the fish, and our fish ID book says it is a “Wolf herring”, fangs and all, lying on the port side trampoline.

A few days before we departed the Whitsundays, Steve bought a used Alvey commercial wireline winch unit which he installed on our port side stern pulpit. It allows us to lower our fishing lures deeper into the water where the fish are likely to be. We looked forward to be passing over some shallow areas before evening and had our fingers crossed and our fry pan ready for a fishy dinner. At 3 PM we heard an unusual noise, one we had never heard before, our Alvey downrigger had sprung into action and was telling us that it had hooked a fish. Have you ever wanted a fishing reel with a handle that you turn easily like crank, that is fixed at waist height to a railing? Well, this is it. Steve calmly cranked the fish to the stern of the boat and Dorothy gaffed it with the beautiful custom-made gaff made by Richie Blomfeld in New Zealand. Steve was heard to thank Dorothy’s father Everett for teaching her how to gaff a fish. We had caught a five ft long Narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel, which our fish ID book gives four stars for “excellent eating”. Hooray! Dorothy managed to remove about 30 pounds of fillets from this beautiful fish, before returning the carcass to the briny.

As I write this, we are approaching the port of Bundaberg where we will go into a marina for a day. We are feeling sleep-deprived, and a strong wind warning has been announced by the meteorolgy service for the coast to the south of us. We could certainly continue sailing, but what the heck, we are cruising, and Dorothy prefers to avoid the 30 knot winds when given a choice. We will then make our way, beacon to beacon, through the Great Sandy Strait, down the coast, and then along the inland waterways inside Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island to our Gold Coast destination at Sanctuary Cove Resort.

When Dorothy returns from a November USA trip, Adagio will make for Tasmania as fast as the fair winds grant.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s