After two years or thereabouts of inactivity, it’s time to blow off the cobwebs, oil the rusty wheels and crank up the blog again. Yikes! It may take a while to get back into the groove again, so bear with us…
It’s hard to believe that the time’s finally here for Part Two of Toucan’s Adventures. There were moments in the last two years when it felt like such a distant dream (particularly sitting in the Sydney traffic snarl), but then before we knew it the departure date was rushing up on us. The last 6 weeks have been a full-on whirl of finishing up work, selling the car, getting new passports and inoculations done, last-minute boat jobs completed, and farewells to friends, family and work colleagues. And in amongst all that trying to find some head space to plan and research where the hell we are actually going to go on this adventure of ours…
Our first goal has always been to leave Pittwater anytime a weather window presented itself after the end of March. From there, head up to the Gold Coast to haul out to get some much-needed bottom paint done, and then make our way up the Queensland coast to Cairns to see our eldest son and daughter-in-law, Nick and Sally.
I was expecting (and secretly hoping) to have at least a week or two before a suitable southerly presented itself, but no – the day after our planned farewell drinks at The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club the forecast was for three days of moderate south-easterly wind, perfect to get us up the NSW coast. It just happened to be April 1st….
So final farewells with friends and family are done on the dock, we drop the lines and we’re off. Excited? A little, but it’s subdued by the wrench of leaving our youngest, Rob, waving at the dock. There’s a lump in my throat and I blink away the tears. This is truly the hardest part of adventuring. Hopefully he and Teneile will join us in Cairns for a family reunion before we head overseas.
It’s indicative of how rusty my seamanship skills have become over the past two years that I didn’t fully appreciate that with a southerly comes a trough, and rain. Lots of rain. And cold. This was definitely not the image I had pictured of our departure, and strangely enough it mirrored our last departure from Pittwater on Illusion in 2011.
I’d also forgotten how unreliable the weather forecasts are. The steady 10-15 kts was anything but. We had everything from 5kts-30kts, with frequent squalls passing over us. By the time night fell I had my thermal layers and wet weather gear on and was definitely not a happy camper. So when the wind was gusting 30kts and moving to the NE it was the final straw. Time to pull into Shoal Bay and anchor up!
The next morning the showers had eased so we headed out again, but now there was no breeze. We motored as far as Broughton Island hoping it would fill in, but no luck. No way the skipper was going to motor all the way to Queensland so we took another pit stop at Coalshaft Bay.
Finally the next day we got some decent breeze but now the East Australian Current played its’ hand. Usually if you hug the coast you can escape the worst of it, but not this time. No Siree. Our boat speed was 7.5 kts but we were struggling to make 3kts over the ground. Argghh! Finally after passing Coffs Harbour we were released from its’ clutches and from then on made much better progress, at one point hurtling through the black moonless night at 13 kts (which is a bit disconcerting when you can hardly see your hand in front of your face. Please god let there not be any unlit obstacles in our way).
As we approached the Gold Coast seaway the wind increased (of course) and with a fairly large sea state running it was a bit of a nail biting entrance. So much so, that the local fishing boat ahead of us waited in the entrance, obviously worried we were going to make a mess of it. I was watching aft, calling the waves for Bruce and he did a great job with a flawless finish. We had no idea Toucan was a real surfer girl!
I guess there’s no such thing as an easy re-introduction to passage-making but on reflection maybe that April 1st departure wasn’t the best idea.