After weeks of waiting for some Northerly breezes to begin our journey south, the forecast finally delivered some positive news our way. On the afternoon of the 23rd, a light northerly breeze was supposed to blow, increasing through the night and all the following day. It was time to prepare Nandji and see how far down the coast we could make it.
After dropping nearly 3 humpty big ones on food to last us for a month, we headed round to the marina that has a public jetty where you can fill up with as much water you can contain in half hour. It only took us 3 and a half months to discover this jetty mind you. But discover we have, so off we went and loaded Nandji to the brim. Packed to the rafters with supplies, off we set in the afternoon of the 23rd.
Planning to sail through the night for the first time, we were excited and nervous. Nervous because there are islands and reef everywhere. Nervous because we really need to invest in a good wind gauge that tells us from in the cock pit, the speed and direction. Nervous, because it is the first time under sail at night. Then we were excited for all the same reasons. The forecast looked sweet so it was just up to us now to do it.
Leaving Airlie under motor as the wind was yet to show its face, we baked in the afternoon rays on the bow. Deciding to head south between the main land and the Molle group of islands, instead of out in the Whitsunday passage, as we had not ventured this way before. A small problem as the gap between the main land and South Molle island is quite skinny compared to the width of the passage. Since we were motoring directly against the movement of the tide, our speed was around 2 knots. Not exactly moving anywhere fast. Normally under motor we move around 4 to 4.5 knots. Quite a strong current flow if you do the maths.
After a couple of hours we finally made our way around the island and out into the passage as the sun was setting. Hanging up the phone after dribbling copious amounts of nothing to my mate Bird. We finally begun to feel a slight breeze on our face and pulled out the headsail for a bit of extra oomph. The tide was not due to change directions for another 2 hours, but we turned off the motor and begun our sail south. The sun disappeared and we waited for the moon to rise. One thing I didn’t think to check was what time the moon was rising. Silly me just thought, the sun goes down then the moon comes up. This is true to some extent, however this evening there was 6 hours of pitch black before the moon appeared on the horizon.
As the wind dropped out and the annoying noise of a sail flapping become to much to bear, we furled up the sail into silence. The tide had since changed direction and in the pitch black of the night, we sat in the middle of the passage slowly drifting south. I didn’t want to motor south all night, as this defeats the purpose of having a sailing vessel. Since it was pitch black I didn’t want to try and anchor somewhere down south at a new location where I had never been before. To many reefs and not enough faith in our navigation equipment, there was no way I wanted to go near land in the pitch black. We have a couple of torches, but none powerful enough to turn the night into day, therefore it was decided that we will just drift in the darkness. I knew of a mooring near Hamilton island where we had previously had a day time stop off, this would be our safe haven to reach and wait the night out. However the mooring is in a skinny channel with a strong current flowing between a little island and a shoal just off the foreshore. Therefore I was not attempting this until Mr moon was high and shining some light on the situation. So for now, there was nothing else to do but enjoy the serenity of darkness and silence of the night.
Laying back relaxing in the cockpit, we were startled by the amazing sound of water exhaling from the blow hole on their giant backs. A couple of migrating whales had decided to swim close by. In the darkness of the night we could not see a thing, let alone a few whales, but their distinct “pffft” of them breathing sounded very close. For the next twenty minutes as we drift 10 nautical miles from the nearest land, we sat in silence listening to these curious creatures. They sounded so close that I was worried we might bump into one. It was a magical moment.
Around midnight the moon had peeped high enough over the horizon for us to attempt the mooring pick up. Slowly motoring into the channel, the tide then grabbed a hold and sucked us in. Studying the navigation chart plotter and Bonita armed with the trusty Dolphin torch on the bow, we steadily located the reflection of the mooring. Turning hard to starboard and facing into the current, we slowly came up behind the mooring. Bonita scooped it up in a jiffy and with in a couple of minutes we were safely swaying in the current.
Tucked in to bed to rise early we were greeted with an increasing Northerly in the morning that sent us cruising down the coast.
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