After a short turnaround in Sydney we said our goodbyes to family, friends and to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia at Rushcutters Bay bound for Mackay. The leg of approximately 900nm would take us up the East Coast of Australia past Nelson Bay, Seal Rocks, Cape Byron, Fraser Island then into the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef which starts at Lady Elliot Island just north of Bundaberg. Onboard for the trip were John Murphy (Central Coast AU) and Austin Kardell (Arizona US). Straight out of Sydney Heads saw encountered the first of many Humpback whales making their migration south to Antarctic waters for the summer. We counted 8 on our first day and stopped counting after we saw 20 in one day off Ballina. I’ve never seen so many whales in such a short period in my life. The weather was great and sunny skies greeted us every morning and we enjoyed lightish winds up past Cape Byron, the Gold Coast and Noosa. The wind increased from the south as we were heading up the east coast of Fraser Island. We saw 40kn and 4m waves as we rounded the top of the island which required concentration and skill at the helm. With all hatches closed and both washboards in place, outside in the cockpit was no place for the faint hearted. When we had to go below decks to prepare coffee or tea it seemed like a different world. The atmosphere was quiet and Pacha didn’t really seemed bothered by the weather or the waves. She shrugged the conditions off with quiet indifference as she rocked and swayed along at times up to 14.5kn. This boat continues to amaze both myself and my guests by her seaworthiness! John started writing a blog on Facebook about how he was feeling on this passage which received a lot of nice comments and encouragement for more of the same. John was able to capture and record not just the memorable moments onboard but also the more mundane tasks with prose and clarity of an upcoming talented writer. I’m looking forward to his first book….
We were propelled into the Coral Sea and the southern most point of the Great Barrier Reef by the wild southerly winds. As we passed Lady Elliot Reef the weather calmed down and we enjoyed southern Queensland sunshine at its finest. As we passed through the southern Barrier Reef I wished that we had more time to cruise and enjoy this amazingly beautiful area. There are so many small islands, islets, coves, bays and beaches to explore I could image getting lost here easily for a season or two. This would explain why so many people come to this area and never leave.
We arrived in Mackay and berthed up in the Marlin Marina. We had covered the 1000nm in 9 days. As usual we were greeted with smiles, hellos and ‘wow what a nice yacht’ from our neighbours and anybody who walked past her. Austin left the boat the evening we got in. He headed back to his girlfriend who was waiting for him eagerly in Brisbane. John and I enjoyed a meal and some beers in one of the Marina’s restaurants before turning in early for the night to get some well-earned rest. The following morning after a quick courtesy call from the taxi driver to a pair of deeply sleeping yachties, John scrambled from Pacha with his bags in a hastened effort not to miss his flight back to Sydney.
I was able to enjoy Mackay for a few days while I waited for new crew to arrive. I was honored to meet Bob Evetts, the owner of a nicely restored pilot boat named Borru which was in a berth close to Pacha. For his 80 years he is still a very active man, maintaining his pilot boat to a magnificent standard. I loved to look at her and listen to the sound of her Rolls Royce 6 cylinder engine. Bob showed me his home with pride and I had the pleasure of meeting his wife, checking out his garage and beautiful garden which has two enormous mango trees. Mackay surprised me as a town with a nice vibe and everything that you could really need with the bonus of some of the best cruising grounds in the world right at its doorstep.
Leg 1 of Pacha’s journey to Europe (west around) is now part of history and I was pleased to be able to share the experience with a good mate of mine, John Murphy. He helped make this leg pleasurable and memorable and I know he learned a lot about himself and his abilities on this trip. He will always be a welcome guest onboard Pacha or in my home.