Monday, April 27, 2009

Anzac Day, Picnics and Canoe Races

Wow, troops, things are livening up here!!!
During the last two weeks, Guy has been getting ready for the Inaugural First National Macleay Island Canoe Race on 26th April 2009... run by Lions International ... a proposed canoe race around the island ... some 15km. Lions not being very nautical, they had asked the Boat Club to assist on the water so Guy as Sailing Master had got a volunteer team together. Nine boats with eighteen crew, a dozen or so club members on shore in various roles ... it was a BIG ASK!!!

But first, it was Anzac Day and as firies, we had to attend the Dawn Service in our spekky yellow uniforms in the Big Red Truck. NO PHOTOS!!! We set the alarm for 4am (GROAN!!!) and got up in the dark to dress and be down at the Fire Station by 4.45am. There we found several sleepyheads drinking instant coffee and enjoying Chrissie's bacon and egg muffins (wow!!). Collecting the gang together, we set off for the top of the island at 5am.

Once there, we parked the trucks until the march was ready to commence, when we fell in behind the marchers. (Who was the person who let off a little beep on the siren as we followed the march?) Ross's little granddaughter did this incredible three steps in the air ... had to laugh!!!

The service was wonderful, attended by about 500 people. We stood in Pat's Park at the top of the island as the dawn came up over Stradbroke. There was a strong tide ripping down the Canaipa passage and the only sounds to be heard were Tom on his bagpipes and the morning birds. Very moving. After the service, the RSL handed out traditional tots of rum and milk ... and people actually drank it!!! Stunned, I am!! Yuk!!

We headed back to the trucks and drove to the Fire Station before returning home to pack for the Anzac Day Picnic. The Boat Club had managed to get 7 boats going over to Horseshoe Bay on Peel Island for the day. 5 yachts including ours and two power boats.

Perfect weather on the way over ... we sailed all the way. On our boat, we had Chas and Barbara, who both seemed to enjoy themselves.

Horseshoe Bay was absolutely perfect despite the enormous number of boats. I counted about 130 at one stage and that didn't include tinnies and tenders. For those interested, Peel Island used to be home to the last leper colony in Queensland.

We had a bbq on the beach and several glasses of vino. Some of us went for a swim whilst others lazed in the shade and chatted. It was a lovely day, over all too soon, as we decided to head back
to Macleay. The tide was well out by then and we could nearly wade out as far as the boat.

It was very rough on the way back. With the tide out, the many banks and shallows in the bay were a hazard and we were thanking our lucky stars that we had a retractable keel when the depth (or lack of depth) showed at 5.5 feet. If we had a fixed keel, we would have been well and truly aground like one other luckless member of the club.

But we didn't escape unscathed. First of all, Barbara was knocked off balance and grabbed our aerial. SNAP! Woops, didn't need the radio, did we? Then we did an accidental slam gybe and half a dozen slides on the mainsail snapped. Suddenly, the mainsail was loose from the mast and threatening to tear away.

Guy took control of the helm and shouted instructions for somebody to go up and take down the mast. Who could that be? Yup, you guessed it ... pick on the novice!!! "Alene, get up in the bow and get that mainsail down. NOW!!" (Thanks, Guy!)

So there I am, terrified, standing up by the mast trying to pull down this b..... sail in pitching seas and strong winds. Suffice to say I was very glad when it finally came down and I could crawl back to the cockpit, making a mental note to drink copious quantities of alcohol as soon as I could get ashore.

With the sails down, we had to motor back to Macleay, a slow process as we only have a very small motor. But we finally pulled into Dalpura to drop off Chas and Barbara. More troubles, of course, for it was still very rough. We couldn't pick up a mooring so had to drop anchor. Guy took Barbara and Chas in to shore on the dinghy (two trips) whilst Little Miss Worrywort sat and fretted in case the anchor slipped and she had to Save the Day.

Guy returned and gave me my next mission. "I will pull up the anchor whilst you start the motor, put it in gear and hold her steady until the anchor is up. Then steer us out of here." Yes, master!! The novice who has never started the engine, or put it in gear will hold the boat steady in these huge waves whilst you exhibit great strength and dexterity by hauling up tons of mud from the bottom of the bay. Then I will try to avoid several dozen large swinging craft of various shapes and sizes as I steer out of the mooring area ... another thing I have never done.


But it went well. We didn't hit anything. Guy didn't fall overboard and we finally got back to our own mooring. Almost dark. Now we have to get ashore ourselves. This entails throwing everything into the dinghy ... now it is dark ... and heading towards shore. We think we can see the Boat Club and we are now in 3 inches of water and probably 3 feet of mud. Someone has to go over the side to pull us ashore. WHO COULD THAT BE?

Sigh.'Nuff said.

Ashore, tired, bruised, muddy (very muddy) we toiled to put the dinghy away in the shed in the dark and headed for home ..... ah, home ... hot showers, large glasses of alcohol, sleep ..... to hear the phone ringing ... "Alene, can you come down to the Boat Club to help me set up for tomorrow?" .... "Guy, I need you to bring me my radio for tomorrow."



Guy rose at 5am to get started on his role as Safety Officer. I slept. And slept. Not rising till 7am when I staggered downstairs and started with a BIG cuppa coffee.

I got to the Boat Club around 9.30am to help make sandwiches for the afternoon function which followed the race. It looked pretty savage out there and I was exceptionally glad I was on dry land and not on a canoe. Quiet day for me ... nothing much to do until noon when I opened the bar and people started arriving for drinks and food.

Guy had a mad day organising all the safety boats and volunteers but there were no disasters and everything went well. The winner paddled round the island in one hour and ten minutes.

About fifty people turned up at the apres race function which lasted until about 6pm. Why so early? Our liquor licence only goes to 6pm on a Sunday. Simple really. But was I glad to close that bar!!! Looking forward to a quiet week!!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Visit to Stradbroke

Guy had booked two nights at a resort on North Stradbroke as a birthday present for me. As we couldn't get in till Easter, this gave us the opportunity of asking Karla and Bec to come with us.

We picked them up from Cleveland and caught the vehicle barge across to Dunwich, the town at the top of Stradbroke where the ferries and barges arrive. We drove off and headed towards Point Lookout on the other side of the island, some 20km.

We were stayed at Whale Watch Ocean Beach Resort and Guy had chosen the best apartment ... overlooking Main Beach and all the way down towards the Gold Coast.

After unpacking, we went for a long walk along the beach and came back to the apartment in time for a glass or two of NZ sav blanc on the balcony, admiring the pandanus palms and the dense vegetation below.

The next morning we walked down to the shops at Point Lookout and then clambered down to the first beach, Frenchman's Bay.

We followed this north to Deadman's Beach (I don't think I would like to swim here .....) and up the rocks to Cylinder Beach where we sat for a while watching the surfers out at sea.

Walking down to Cylinder Beach, we stopped for a swim. The water was cold and the waves incredibly close together, pulling across the beach with a strong undertow. I was glad to be "swimming between the flags" ... thank goodness for lifesavers!!!
Guy and I left Karla and Bec in the water and walked back via the shops (for an icecream). In the evening, we went out to one of the many restaurants in the area. We chose a Fish Cafe within walking distance. The food was very reasonably priced and ocean fresh. I had Szechuan salt and pepper squid with salad and orange and ginger dressing. Super yum!!!

Sunday morning, we had to be out of the unit by 10am, so we packed and took off. We found the Sunday markets open and stopped for a browse. Lots of the usual tatt but I managed to find a couple of books to read and we contributed a few $$ to the Local Ambulance Committee for a new defribulator. We have just bought a new one on Macleay, so we know how hard it is to raise money for them. (And like why don't the Government pay for these essential items for ambulances on islands???)
From there, we drove to Amity Point and (shsshh!!) drove on the beach. You are allowed to drive on the beaches on Stradbroke but are supposed to have a permit. We only went about 10m just to turn around and go back the way we came so I guess we are pretty safe there. Then we stopped and had a look at the beach, which was long, white and not a soul in sight.

We had lunch in Dunwich after a quick drive inland to Brown Lake, a freshwater lake in the centre of the island. There were certainly a lot of visitors there. Perhaps that's why all the beaches were deserted?

And finally it was time to board the barge and return to Cleveland. There to say a temporary farewell to Karla and Bec who are job hunting and house hunting and to get on yet another barge and return to our own island, Macleay.

Busy, busy, busy

Wow, what a week we've had!!!
Last Saturday, Karla and Bec arrived for a few days, fresh from trekking Nepal.
We immediately threw them on the boat and took them out sailing for the day. There was supposed to be a Race Day at the Club but only one other boat took part.
I still say we won ... just because we got back first.

Karla and Bec stayed till Tuesday morning. The weather was pretty foul and it just wouldn't stop raining. Not what we wanted to show them!!!

Tuesday afternoon three British backpackers turned up ... Kim, Charlotte and Cheryl. Kim is a friend of Danny's from Reading and he had given her our number to call us when she was in Brisbane.
They arranged to stay for a couple of days so ... guess what? ... yes, we took them sailing!!!
The pic is of our dinghy, which trails behind us. Powered by a fiercesome 3.3hp Merc, it gets us to and from the boat and the shore.

Wednesday morning bright and early we all piled on board Bonnington, after a horrendous trek through the mangrove mud at the Boat Club. The tide was out and the only way to get the tender out to Bonnington was to carry it out through the mud (up to our knees) and then clamber on board. Yuk! A great introduction to Bay Sailing for the tourists.

But nobody slipped on their bum (always a dreaded option) and we all made it to the boat in one piece.

Casting off, we motored out past Dalpura and the tip of Macleay Island but found no wind whatsoever.
Hoisting the Iron Sail (more motoring) we headed towards Blakesleys Beach on Stradbroke.
On the way, a large spotted ray leapt out of the water just beside the boat. He must have been dozing on the surface and didn't hear us approach. "I didn't see it" wailed Kim. So, as an encore, he jumped again. Brilliant!!!

When we reached the beach and had successfully dropped anchor, we all jumped into the water which was only about 8' deep. Next thing, a pod of about 30 dolphin surrounded us, swimming around the boat. It was totally, totally gobsmacking!!! All different sizes and all gambolling in the waves with not a care in the world. The girls just couldn't believe their luck!!

No, of course we don't have photos!! We were in the water!!!

When the dolphin took off to frolic further afield, we hauled a picnic esky ashore and enjoyed some time in the sun before heading back to Macleay.

The girls left on Thursday, heading up to Brisbane, Noosa and points north. Hope the rest of their trip is as lucky as their sail on the Bay. We, on the other hand, started packing for Straddie .... see next post.

Monday, April 6, 2009


I was weeding the vegie patch this afternoon and found a tamarillo fruit lying on the ground underneath a tree. I had wondered about this tree since we moved into the house several months ago. I asked the neighbours what it was ... they didn't know ... it's kinda hard to search online for an unnamed tree with big leaves ... and we don't have a nursery in the Halfwits.

So I let it grow and waited. Until today when I found the tamarillo. I recognised the fruit thanks to my past in Kenya and immediately googled "tamarillo tree" images. Thanks to I discovered my unknown tree was indeed a tamarillo. Shame the one and only fruit had to drop to the ground and get half eaten before I worked it out but hey ... next time we will know what to do.

My Kenya Settlers Cookery Book, courtesy of Marie Whaite of Sigalagala in Nyanza Province aka 1954, will give me the details.

Long time since I thought of Marie ... for me at six years old, she was a very important lady, wife of my Dad's boss, full of amazing knowledge and the only person who would take me for long walks through the countryside. She knew everybody, from Chief Jeremiah and his sixty-five wives to the latest baby to be borne. I met them all. When she was gone - retired to the Cotswalds with husband George - I continued to take these walks alone, much to the horror of my mother. Every school holiday, my first day was taken up with rushing around the bundu, finding out who had died, who had a new baby/calf/goat and other delights.

I often took our dog Roy, a wire-haired terrier. Too often perhaps, for in later years I noticed a lot of the local dogs had a strange resemblance ... he too enjoyed socialising.

Marie gave the recipe book to my mother before departing for England. Mum passed it on to me. Not that I cook ... but I love old books.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Well, we finally made it! The boat has arrived on Macleay Island to the strains of Alene singing "Marina, Marina, Marina ... there's no more Marina for me." Only family will understand that one but basically, our boat was penned in the marina at Raby Bay until we sailed it out of harbour this morning.

We picked up friends Colin and Robert (crew) and headed over to the mainland on the water taxi at 8.50am. Unfortunately, the bus to Cleveland did not coincide with this water taxi (why,fgs, we ask?) so we had to champ the bit for half an hour before leaping onto the bus and heading towards Cleveland and Raby Bay.

For those in WA, Raby Bay is very similar to the newer parts of Mandurah ... lots of canal dwellings and a marina.

Colin the elder, the EX owner (yes, it is now ours!!) was waiting patiently for us, three quarters of an hour late. We explained the problem and climbed aboard, where he showed Guy a few more points of interest on the boat (like how to start the motor) before we finally waved farewell and headed up the channel.

Watching Colin on the shoreline, I was sad for him. At 82, he had sold the boat because he could no longer sail her without a crew and I could tell it was a big thing for him to part with his treasure, which he has owned since new. He and his wife had been down to clean the boat from aft to stern and it looked wonderful.

The motor had started first time and we headed out to sea, being very, very careful as it was low tide. Mud banks on either side of the channel warned us to keep between the beacons and we headed out into Moreton Bay. The weather forecast was fine, after so many days of rain and high winds. Warm but not sunny, with the wind blowing about 15 knots south easterly. Perfect to sail back to Macleay.

Once out of the harbour, we set the mainsail in a reefed position and lowered our keel a little more. (Leaving harbour we had only had it down halfway.) Cutting the motor, we smiled at the sudden silence and we were under way, sailing by wind power alone. Wonderful!!

Soon Colin was champing at the bit ... more speed ... so we unfurled the jib and yes, this was definitely better. We were hiking along now and the wind had picked up considerably. Probably around 20-25 knots by now and little choppy waves were slapping at the sides as we tacked towards Peel Island.

I went downstairs to make some sandwiches for lunch and came across the first problem. Guy had told me that Colin had left all the kitchen stuff on board, which he had ... apart from cutlery. Have you ever tried to cut a tomato with a teaspoon? Yeeeees! The teaspoon managed to spread butter and we ate ham sandwiches without tomato. I had also brought coffee etc but soon discovered that a heeling boat is no place for an apprentice sailor to make a cuppa. I didn't even try ... back upstairs in the open air for me.


Past Peel Island and heading towards Coochiemudlo on the next tack, Colin warned Guy about the Banana Banks, two shallow sandbanks between the two islands. We watched our depth finder carefully .... 15 feet, 14 feet ....
"Do you know how deep the keel is when it's right down?" asked Colin.
"No" replied Guy "But probably about 7feet."
The depthfinder continued to count ... 12 feet, 11 feet, 10 feet .....
"I think we should tack about now." Colin ventured.
9 feet ... 8 feet .... Suddenly there was a bit of a bump on the bottom, then another.
Ah, we've run it aground, just an hour out on our first sail.
But we have a retractable keel.
"Lift the keel" cried Guy.
Robert pressed the button for the hydraulic keel to pull up and we slid over the bank and tacked back into deeper waters.
As the only sailor with much experience in these waters, we deferred to Colin's judgement.
"Stay to the south of that beacon and we're good."
So off we go again, heading towards Stradbroke, passing by the next beacon.
This time I'm watching the depth finder .... 10 feet, 9 feet ....
"Isn't it too shallow?" I venture.
Guy looks at me pityingly. He said nothing but the look said it all ... we're inside the channel, it's all good .... THUMP.
Yup, aground again.
"Raise the keel" and this time it was a little harder because we had hit harder but we finally got off the bank and tacked away back into deeper waters.

After this we all paid a great deal of attention to the depth of the water beneath us until we cleared those darn Banana Banks and headed east towards Stradbroke.

The weather was still picking up and becoming quite gusty. We were certainly speeding along. The boat will be amazing with the wind behind her, for we were tacking up into the wind all the way home.
Getting near Stradbroke, we tacked once again and headed for home. Passing along the north side of Macleay, we waved to various houses, hoping our friends would spot the boat, before continuing along the west side of Macleay down the channel between Macleay and Garden Island. The tide was still low and we raised our keel almost completely, for the draft was about 4feet at this stage. Luckily, the mass of the island was protecting us and it was very calm.

We waved again as we passed Robert's house. We couldn't actually see her but Judy was on the deck (she told us later) and waved back.

Heading round the bottom of the island, we started up the motor and dropped the sails in order to motor to the pier where Guy dropped Robert and I off with all our gear.

He and Colin sailed back to our mooring off Sandpiper Beach whilst Robert and I went to pick up Judy and head to the Boat Club. There Robert and I carried out a couple of double kayaks and carried them down to the water to paddle out to the mooring.

I did run into difficulty with a big mud crab I spotted as we launched the kayaks. I saw him in the water near my kayak and gave him a bit of a pat with my paddle to make sure he stayed clear and didn't get hurt. He took umbrage at this and grabbed my paddle with both nippers and then scurried under the kayak. As I was still pushing the kayak at this stage, I started leaping around in case he came right under and grabbed my toes. Robert was no help at all ... he just laughed at me, the beast!!

Recovering from the Attack of the Crab, we paddled out to the boat at its mooring. Until we get a mooring of our own we are using the mooring of a friend Michael Stephens. His boat is currently on the hard so we have a little time to try to get organised.

And yes, we will be getting a dinghy as a tender. It's on order but not arriving till next week. So the kayaks were the way to go.

Guy and Colin hopped aboard and we returned to the shore and home for a celebratory champers or two.

Welcome to Macleay, Bonnington!!! ... hey, any suggestions for a new name? It sounds very upper class English to me ....