Lucky to find our friends
"OK everyone up!" It was 4.30am. We had slept soundly tucked in behind Cape Upstart, but now it was time for a (hopefully) quick dash to Gloucester Passage. There was a window before a southerly blew in so we should be able to pick up a mooring by early afternoon.
Mike, our son, stirred. He had joined us at Airlie Beach and sailed with us up to the rendezvous at Magnetic Island. After a couple of weeks on board he still was not sure why we seemed to have so many early starts. Ruth got the kettle brewing and I readied Barrenjoey Light to be up and away.
Shortly after 5am with the first of the nautical twilight peeking through we were a couple of hundred metres off The Bun, off towering Cape Upstart. All was good and the tea went down well.
"High Temp Alarm!!!" Mike sensed that was not good. Engine off. Main up and genoa unfurled. Light breeze from north. Hope there's not much current. Better get further off the rocks.
Less than an hour later a strong southerly hit us. It was much earlier than forecast. At times up to 35 knots. We put in two reefs and switched to the staysail, and tacked and tacked and tacked. Mike who has not spent a lot of time on the boat became more confident with every tack. It was much better than being seasick down below.
The wind died but the seas remained very lumpy and we crawled south through the ships off Abbott Point.
Time to contact our friends who were down at Gloucester Passage. "How y'all going?" "Well Gail, not so good." We told George and Gail on Southern Belle about our predicament. No, we preferred not to anchor when we arrived. Better to pick up a mooring if we could. "No worries", said George. He and John Carter (Happiness) picked out a mooring well away from other boats and said they would assist.
All through the afternoon we updated our ETA, finally realising we would not make it by night fall. Still the wind had picked up a bit and at 7.30 we were doing 7.5 knots in 25 knots and flat seas as we neared Gloucester Passage. "Where's Happiness?" John and Adrienne had their AIS on as the mooring was near them.
George and John hopped into the dinghy. They tied cyalume sticks onto the mark, but then realised you could not see them from a distance. Never mind, George had a solution.
"Tender to Southern Belle, this is Barrenjoey Light. Can you flash your strobe." "Got you", as we adjusted the course.
George and John meantime realised that Barrenjoey Light might come in fast. "Better start the outboard, just in case we need to get out of the way", advised John. "Won't start!" George discovered that in the dark, he had knocked the fuel line off the petrol tank.
Back on Barrenjoey Light we put in three reefs in the main to slow the boat and make managing things easier. Everyone knew their roles. Ruth would pick up the mooring line from George and John. Mike would drop the main. I would handle the staysail.
The wind died. We inched ever closer to the mooring. "Flash the strobe again".
At 8:05 just minutes after a full moon rose over Cape Gloucester, we tacked in 3-4 knots of breeze doing half a knot. "Main down Mike." "Mooring line secured", yelled Ruth.
The next morning, after a well deserved lie in, George and John came onto the boat and helped repair everything. We were able to establish what had happened. The frame supporting the engine driven bilge had broken from metal fatigue. It would have been extremely difficult to repair under way. The fan belt had then shredded.
Then it was lunch at the resort. "Our shout."
During our trip north we had seen whales, witnessed beautiful sunrises and sunsets and snorkelled at Lady Musgrave but we will also treasure other memories of the challenges we faced too. Some have said that Cruising is about having problems, and then telling your friends about it. Well perhaps, but we are certainly lucky we have such great friends.