Three yachts (Flour Girl, Allure of NZ and us) all departed Huon Reef together for a 2 night/3 day passage to Chesterfield Reef. We had an excellent calm and fast passage. Although the lumpy sea and wind direction made the sails slam (and the whole boat shudder) at times, the days were beautiful and sunny and we had a waxing moon for half the night. We even had to slow down so as to arrive and be able to eye-ball the reef entrance during daylight hours.
It remained windy whilst we were at Chesterfield. Onshore we had to carefully negotiate birds and nests and stay below the high tide mark as the eggs were difficult to distinguish from the sand and rocks. We snorkelled on an amazing coral head out in the bay, with such a multitude of different corals, fish, clams, schools of larger fish, a shark and hidey holes and caves to tentatively dive and poke one’s head into.
We celebrated 3 birthdays at chesterfield in the six nights we stayed there Luke (10yrs) and Maria from ‘Allure of NZ’ and Philippe from a French yacht that was anchored there at the same time as us.
A Chesterfield Poem.
Birds, Birds, Birds, Birds, Birds, Birds, Birds, Birds, Birds
The Sky full
The Sand full
The trees full
The air full
The air filled with sound.
It was hard to find a calm and stable weather window for passage to Australia. We left in strong SSE winds with the expectation that the wind would swing more to the East the next day, to allow us to set a better angle for Brisbane. Within the hour we were drowned with many waves coming over the front and side of the boat onto us and into the cockpit. We generally held good speed, but it was pretty uncomfortable for the first 2 days with a lumpy sea and the wind pretty hard on the nose. The following day brought inconsistent winds, the current was against us, we were moving so slowly and it was frustrating with the sails slamming when the wind dropped out.
With little wind forecast we decided to motor to stick to our plan to get to Australia before the weekend (thus avoid overzealous overtime charges by the Quarantine department) as well as being mindful of tide times for the Brisbane’s Moreton Bay. We ended up motoring for about 40 hours.
During this time we assisted ‘Allure of NZ’ with an emergency oil supply as their dying motor was eating oil at an unexpectedly fast rate. We came along side each other doing a consistent 4 knots, Justin holding the boats about 5 metres apart so as not to hit masts in the swell. Jason threw a rope across and I tied on the container of engine oil and then Jason pulled the rope back. Twice over a successful operation and added a little bit of excitement to the day. Soon after the wind picked up and it was lovely to turn off the motor and we had a beautiful sail for the rest of the day.
We entered into Moreton Bay and had a fast sail across the bay. Then despite tiredness Justin and I both needed to be on watch given the pitch blackness, to distinguish and make sense of the many navigation lights along the shipping channels and through the dock area and because of the mammoth size of some of the container ships coming toward or up behind us in the seemingly narrow channel! As per customs requirements, we finally tied up to the marina at Brisbane’s Rivergate Marina at 2am on Friday 14th November.
So as it panned out we were luckily able to visit both reefs and took the best part of 3 weeks to arrive very salty, extremely scruffy and rather tired in Australia, having scraped near the bottom of our food provisions and watched our water usage closely. Oh and despite our route planning to avoid overtime charges…we were unaware that the G20 had turned our Friday arrival day into a Brisbane Public holiday, so overtime charges for Quarantine we got…not happy Jan. Welcome Home!