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 ....

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