Friday, November 03, 2006

Passage to Bundaberg

Current Location: Bundaberg, Australia
Current Position: 24º45.62' S 152º23.28' E
Next Destination: Bundaberg for at least two weeks

So our passage didn't stay quite as dreamy as it had started out, but all-in-all it was still quite nice. The biggest problem was a lack of wind coupled with just a tad too much swell. The boat would roll a bit, slackening the sail (because there wasn't enough wind to hold it), and then when the boat rolled back, the sail, along with the boom, would slam back into place ... an ugly and loud noise that eventually drove us (especially Chris) crazy. With the banging sails and looming overtime charges if we didn't get into Bundaberg by 4:30pm on Friday, we motored more then we normally would have ... in all we figured we probably motored about halfway here! But the cost of diesel was less then the cost of overtime charges, and we saved our sails from the extra, unneeded, wear and tear. Everyday was filled with near cloudless bright blue skies and sparkling clear waters. The swell was never that bad, and I was thrilled to have a passage without seasickness. After a year full of beating to weather and 20-30 kts, this passage was a welcome relief.

We had a bit of entertainment along the way as well. In all we caught three fish, of which we only kept the 4 ft Wahoo caught on the morning of our arrival. The guy was strong and put up a good fight, bruising my finger, and giving Chris a pretty good gash on his hand (via teeth). Luckily we did NOT catch a whale --- About half way here, on a very flat sea day, we had a whale (maybe two) check us out. Chris and I were both reading in the cockpit when we heard the blow. "What was that?", Chris asked, and when I looked over the side I could see a large dark shape just thirty feet off our stern. Just a few seconds later emerged the back of a huge whale ... it appeared as though he was actually chasing our fishing lures, "Uh oh" I said as the big 'ol whale head brushed into the lures before losing interest and diving back down. I was sure he was going to snag a hook, but luckily there was nothing for the hooks to grab onto and they just brushed off his back. Next the whale came along our starboard side and swam along side us for a few minutes, as though trying to figure out what kind of sea creature Billabong was. I just hoped he didn't mistake us for a potential mating partner! For quite awhile he seemed to follow us, always resurfacing just behind us while we slowly moved along ... it was a good spot of entertainment for the day, but we still let out a big sigh of relief once we were clear and sure we weren't going to hit each other. The last 'creature' to keep us company was a Boobie (bird), who decided our collapsed main sail would be a good spot for a break. He rode along for a bit until, in our efforts to say hello, we scared him off. He attempt a couple of more landings, but apparently wasn't used to landing on a moving target, and could never get it quite right.

We arrived in Bundaberg on Friday (Nov 3rd), about six and half days after departing Noumea. As we closed in on Bundaberg I commented to Chris that you would never know how big Australia is from this angle; the land seemed really flat, almost like an atoll, and not much seemed to occupy the shoreline ... it will be interesting to see what other Australian shore-side cities look like. Customs and Quarantine were some of the nicest, and youngest, officers we've experienced. We spent so much time chatting it was hard to get the paperwork filled out. We never would've guessed but apparently electric fly-swatters are considered weapons and not allowed in Australia!!! I guess people are known to buy them and alter the battery to higher voltage, creating taser-like mechanisms (what will people think of next?). We were just finishing up the final papers when another boat was heading for the quarantine spot in front of us and lost forward gear. We came out to assist them in backing in, and, go figure, they lost reverse. The winds and current started pushing them right for Billabong! Yikes! No worries though, we were able to throw out fenders and grab their lines, rafting them up to Billabong. The poor people aboard were horrified that they might of damaged Billabong, but there wasn't a ding in her. Later they had to tow her away, and then we moved into a regular slip.

Since we had joined the Bundaberg Port to Port Rally, we now have a week of social events to look forward to, and have been meeting a number of new boats. I already feel overwhelmed with the endless things to see and do in Australia!!!

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