Jun 03 2011

Dolphins!

Tag: Australia,Justin,sea life,wild lifeJonathon Haradon @ 1:57 am
A week or so ago while sailing from Airlie to Townsville, Justin and I saw about 20 dolphins all jumping and playing at the bow as we cruised along at 7 knots. It was a lot of fun to watch. I had never seen that many at the same time around the boat. Here are some pictures.

May 28 2011

Maintenance Updating

Tag: Australia,boat workJonathon Haradon @ 4:29 pm
I’ve just put up 21 blog posts on our companion maintenance site, where we list all the upgrades and maintenance we’ve done to Syzygy. The 21 posts concern all the maintenance that I’ve done over the last five months since Matt and Karen left me to my own devices aboard Syzygy. They are mostly not particularly interesting stories, but for those of you who enjoy all things Syzygy, I thought I’d share.

May 14 2011

5 days, 7 dives

Tag: Australia,diving,fun activity,Justin,route,scuba diving,wild lifeJonathon Haradon @ 1:07 pm
Our first three dives were off Bait Reef, 30 miles from the Airlie Beach, on the outer section of the Great Barrier Reef. Here the water was clearer than near shore. Bait Reef stays entirely under water. Our first dive was at night, a disconcertingly amazing experience. Never really knowing where you are, or what is just outside the beam of your torch is eerie. We were surrounded by a school of 3 to 5 foot long tuna. They would dart into the light and just as quick burst away. They would playfully dart into the light, come right up next to you, and then quickly burst away and after five feet they would be out of the light. Second up was a wall dive. A sheer vertical wall took us down to 90 feet; Justin sunk to 100. From there we meandered and drifted along the wall, slowly making our way shallower and through gullies and overhangs and swim throughs. Third was a shallower dive around what are called the Stepping Stones, seven pillars that vertically rise from 15 meters up to within 1 meter of the surface. We then had to unfortunately leave Bait Reef without visiting nearby reefs, as a front moved in bringing with it 25 -30 knot winds. The winds whipped the water across the reef and made for a terrible place to hang out. Bobbing and swaying, we labored to get the dinghy out of the water and make for calmer anchorages. At Hook Island, we dove the Western tip of Butterfly Bay, an enjoyable outing, where Justin spied a small shark. We then dove on the eastern side of Manta Ray Bay, unfortunately spying no Manta Rays. The season for them is May through September, but we haven’t been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one yet. The west side of Pinnacle Bay was next, adjacent to a rock-cliff named the wood pile that begs to be the site of some cliff diving and which I spent an afternoon scrambling and doing a little climbing on. An awesome 10 foot roof crack juts out over the water; a better climber than me would love having a go at it. I just admired it and wished I was a better climber. This dive was a bit disappointing with respect to fish, coral and visibility, given it’s hype in various guidebooks. It did have, however, some fantastic coral formations, huge overhangs, deep slots to swim through and a couple of tunnels. I spied one tiny tunnel with a sliver of light coming through it. I motioned for Justin to come check it out and jokingly hand signaled for him to swim up it. To my surprise, he took me up on it and started to gingerly make his way through. Soon, his fins had kicked up a cloud of dirt as he angled up and through. I ascended along the coral watching bubbles filter up through what seemed to be an impenetrable mass of coral. Justin was nowhere in sight. I then crested over a hump of coral and there was Justin, his upper body poking out of the end of the tunnel, as he gingerly twisted and squeezed through the last, tightest spot. Finally, we dove the eastern side of Pinnacle Bay, around the Pinnacles. This dive, combined with the previous one, are supposed to be the best in the main islands of the Whitsundays. On both, as in most dives in Australia, I continue to be disappointed in the visibility. Live coral was also not particularly present on this dive, but formations within the coral were. High narrow slots abounded, two in particular were reminiscent of the slot canyons of Utah, 8 feet wide, 25 feet high slices through the coral made for fun exploring. Another big highlight was seeing the 6 foot long turtle. I immediately thought of Finding Nemo as it glided along in the current. I saw a Moray Eel, a disgusting looking creature. And I nearly had to adapt a fish; an angel fish, sometimes accompanied with his three friends, swam within 10 feet behind and around me for over 20 minutes of our dive. Huge thanks to Brian on Furthur who has been filling our tanks for us. Diving and hanging out with him and Susan has been a great time over the last five days.

May 13 2011

What to do while sailing along at 2.5 knots

Tag: Australia,fun activity,humorous,Justin,picturesJonathon Haradon @ 4:08 am

This post backtracks and refers to events that happened on May 2nd.

We left Middle Percy Island noon on May 2nd. Anxious to get to the Whitsunday’s, famed to be the best sailing grounds of Australia, we had spent only one night on Middle Percy, a beautiful though nearly completely deserted island. It’s one claim to fame is a hut with various sailing paraphernalia from the last 50 odd years. Every boat it seems, leaves a little artifact and quite a collection has built up.

Anxious though we were, the wind was not so in a hurry. With both the drifter and jib up we slowly putted along on the glassiest of seas barely breaking 2 knots. We already knew we were in for an overnight sail, and so I didn’t feel like turning on the engine.

We spent the time in various ways.

First and foremost, Justin cracked a beer at precisely noon to celebrate our speedy passage making.

spent some time grinding on our new (for a second time) anchor windlass handle. A welder in Bundaberg charged me an obscene amount for a new handle and then attached a piece that was 50% too thick to fit into the windlass. Alas, I discovered this 50 miles away at Lady Musgrave when we tried to anchor. To date we’e made do with our dilapidated rusting back-up until now. No more. With no rocking and no boats around, I set about to grinding.

Justin made me lunch.

We relaxed with more beers at two in the afternoon, a gentle breeze at our backs, enough to keep us cool, but not enough to push us any faster than 2.5 knots.

Justin played some video games.

And finally, I set about to thinking how I could rig up the hammock. I normally set it up on the forestay, (the wire holding up the mast in the front of the boat) but since the jib was rolled out, this wasn’t possible. See pictures below for my set-up. As I lazily swayed in the hammock, drinking a beer and watching the water meander underneath me, I may or may not have thought about how things couldn’t get much more relaxed.

 

May 06 2011

Lady Musgrave

Tag: Australia,fun activity,Justin,pictures,wild lifeJonathon Haradon @ 4:02 am

This post backtracks some and talks about events that happened April 21st to April 25th.

The first truly tropical awesome place that we’ve been to since Justin arrived was Lady Musgrave Island. It is at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, a mere 30 miles offshore, 50 miles from where we sailed from Bundaberg. A tiny cay of sand and trees 600 yards wide juts up out of the ocean with a small two mile wide fringing reef surrounding it. The Tuomotus, where I first joined the boat were similar (though this was even smaller) and as I wish I could have spent another month there, I was in love with the place before we even got there.

The entrance through the coral reef was rumored to be blasted out with dynamite years ago by guano harvesters. Goats were introduced on the island in case of shipwrecks. Jonny would be glad to know they have since been eradicated. I was nervous entering the coral ring, the pass felt extremely narrow, much narrower than anything in the Tuomotus or anywhere I’d been. Running aground here would be disastrous as it would mean impacting and potentially sinking on hard, sharp coral, not the soft forgiving sand I’ve hit twice now in the last month. I had left the drifter pole up after pulling the sails down and I swear it seemed like it’s 20 foot length was able to overhang the obvious shallow edge of where the pass had been blasted out. Nerve-wracking, but we made it through.

Inside was beautiful glistening water. The Pacific Ocean crashed all around against a ring of fringing reef that, save the tiny cay, remained just two or three feet underwater. The water was brilliant turquoise and blue. We relaxed. We snorkeled. We spear-fished. We meandered around the island. We lazily swung in the hammock.

Our spear fishing adventure was short. I bagged one smaller sized fish within a few minutes. Justin then said he had spied a bigger fish. I asked if he wanted to take a shot at it. He dove down to within three feet of it… the fish didn’t budge… and then Justin surfaced without firing. He had forgotten to undo the safety!  Back down he went, the fish hadn’t moved an inch, and with one shot from three feet away, one-shot wonder Justin bagged what is easily the biggest fish that someone on Syzygy has caught. King’s to Justin today!

Justin, however, doesn’t really eat fish, so I spent the next two hours trying to gut and clean them. My fish only produced a small amount of meat, but Justin’s… Justin’s provided two beautiful large fillets. He gamely tried a few small bites of what I cooked up, but in the end sided with Ramon for dinner that evening. I dined on fish in a lemon butter sauce, fish in a sweet chili reduction, and fish teriyaki. Thank you Justin!

 

May 05 2011

Justin brings the 2-step to Australia

We are currently at Airlie Beach, a super popular backpacker stop, on the mainland across from one of the most popular sailing grounds in Australia, the Whit Sundays. Justin and I went out on a Tuesday night and didn’t make it back to the boat until 2:30 am. Fun times were had. Lots of beer, super-sized Jenga, dancing in the streets. Huge hangover on my part.

And in homage to Greg Sutera, Justin brought the 2-step to Australia.


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