Welcome to Zenitude’s blog where you can follow us while we travel slow in our Lagoon catamaran. We update this blog frequently when we are cruising to let family and friends know where we are. Check the complete story of our adventures that started in 2006 when Zenitude became our home and cruising our way of life. Graciela and Oscar

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Our short 2016 sailing season - Long overdue summary

I felt there was not much to report this past year as we planned to stay around Whitsundays and we've done this before. In retrospective I regret not having my notes as there is always new places and experiences that by now are somehow forgotten. Anyway, not all is lost and here are some highlights of our sailing in 2016.

Around the Whitsundays

We left Mackay last May as planned and spent two lovely months sailing around the Whitsundays and visiting lots of places, always hoping for a nice weather window to go to one of the coral reefs nearby.

Eventually we got a window of settled weather and we left towards Hook and Bait reefs. There were a couple of boats in Hook but mainly we were all by ourselves. Visibility was good for snorkeling and it was calm at night. We went to Bait Reef next and it was unusual to arrive at the lagoon and find it totally empty, all  the moorings available, not even one of the daily tour boats was there.

Tides going down exposing coral heads at Hook Reef 

Nightfall at Bait Reef
Strangely enough for this time of the year, the wind turned NE and there was a small swell making its way inside the lagoon thru the cut so we had a rolly night at the mooring. Next day didn't look too good, visibility at the reef was poor with the north easterlies, I guess this was the reason nobody else was there. Wishing that the weather was not so unpredictable we left the reef and turned back to the islands.

Towards the end of May we had Joan and Jan visiting which was great. Whitsundays is the perfect place to receive friends, they can easily fly to Hamilton Island where there is a very good marina to wait for visitors with its location at walking distance from the airport. There are many places to visit within a short sail and always an anchorage for each weather condition.

With Joan and Jan

The other visitors

This time the weather behaved and even with their short visit we were able to stay at some of the nicest places around  Hook and Whitsunday Islands, like Langford Island and Butterfly Bay, great places for snorkeling. We also stopped at a couple of other small islands, spent a day at the very famous and amazing Whiteheaven Beach and then it was time to sail back to Hamilton marina for their flight to Sydney.

Around the Whitsundays with friends

Testing new gear

Manson Supreme - The new anchor 

When we left Mackay in May our first stop was lovely Thomas Island where we anchored for the night anxious to test the new anchor. The Manson Supreme has a great reputation for no dragging once is set with the correct chain scope and the weather was settled so we were really not too concerned. At least Oscar wasn't.

Manson Supreme ready to replace old anchor

Since that first stop we've anchored quite a number of times and I'm happy to say we've been sleeping very relaxed with this anchor. It took us a bit to get used to set it right and we had to slightly change our anchoring technique as this anchor seems to require a slow and constant backing movement with a scope of about three times the depth, it slowly buries in the bottom until it stops the boat, then the rest of chain needed for the conditions is released.

There is a problem though, this anchor design is very different from our previous Danforth and we haven't been able to store it tight in the bow roller, except by tightening the chain in the windlass, something we are not keen to have as a permanent solution, so in the 'things to do' list there is a new project to tackle this problem.

The new super-light dinghy - Zeni III

Zeni I, our first dinghy came with Zenitude when we bought her. This dinghy gave up on us after a good use around the Caribbean and when we arrived in Venezuela we bought a brand new Caribe, Zeni II. She stayed with us until last year giving us 8 years of good service. She was still in quite good shape but we decided to replace her for a lighter new dinghy.

We bought an AB inflatable with aluminium hull and we put her to a good test this time around the Whitsundays. We had to get used at a lighter dinghy with less stability than our heavier one but still we found she runs quite well and is definitely much easier on our backs when pushing her up the beach. We've added a portable ladder to make it easier to climb up into the dinghy when swimming in deep waters.

Zeni III, the new tender to Zenitude

Oscar testing the new dinghy

Time to go back

Before the end of June it was time to get back to Mackay marina and leave Zenitude very tightly tied up while we went into our extended overseas trip. We were away for almost three months and by the end of September we were back in Mackay, getting ready to take Zenitude south to the Gold Coast for the summer. 

After a week at the marina and a lot of pondering about the weather to start our trip south we decided to leave and had a good 3 days window to reach Keppel Bay marina           in Rosslyn Bay, before the arrival of a southerly change.  The good thing about sailing during this time of the year is that there are almost 14 daylight hours, which allowed us to make the trip without sailing at night. Our overnight stops were Digby Is., Hexham Is. and Pearl Bay.

It took us a week in Rosslyn Bay to get another couple of good days to keep going. This was no problem as we love this area and the marina is great.  At this point in the trip we started to spot whales every now and then but as we approached Fraser Island and entered Hervey Bay we could see them almost every time we look at sea. They are quite a sight, but we feel uneasy when they get too close, they are just too big and we can only hope they get out of the way as we pass next to them. 

We've been in Hervey Bay many times and never stopped at Platypus Bay, so this time rather than going to Bundaberg we sailed down next to Fraser Island and spent the night in Platypus Bay. Next stop was Gary's Anchorage. Following day we left at first light to make it to Wide Bay Bar at a good time for the bar crossing. The early morning was good and the crossing was uneventful. Later on the day we heard in the radio that conditions had deteriorated quickly, so we did well. As we were exiting the bar, a couple of whales were crossing alongside just about 100 meters to our port side, the whales on one side and the sand bar on the other side made for some excitement moments we would have happily missed.

Sunset at Gary's Anchorage

Our next stop was Mooloolaba, we entered the canal as the sun was going down and by the time we arrived at the marina it was completely dark. The marina staff was gone by then but they had arranged for the people in one of the boats to help us with the lines, as we approached trying to find our spot in the docks a cheerful committee of very nice people were waiting for us and soon after we were happily docked. 

Our friends Eduardo and Sonia live in Mooloolaba and we met them and the kids for lunch. It was great to catch up once again. Not long ago Eduardo bought a sailboat and here is a picture of the family passing by the marina.

Eduardo and Sonia with kids below deck

Another good window and three days later we were arriving at Gold Coast City marina where we plan to stay, at least until the end of cyclone season in May 2017.  Until then there is lots of work as we have many projects on the pipeline to keep Zenitude looking good and behaving safely.

Link to all photos for this trip: Cruising Mackay to Gold Coast Album