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When we last left you, our new crew member, Blake, had returned home due to a family emergency. Unfortunately, he will not be able to rejoin us. But we are very happy to welcome aboard Gareth Granville as our new first mate. Gareth is Irish, a qualified yachtmaster, a good sailor, great cook, and all around nice guy. We are very pleased to have him. Best of all, he was already here in Australia so was able to join us quickly. So we spent a couple weeks at Airlie Beach familiarizing Gareth with the boat and doing some boat maintenance projects. We've also had time to socialize with some friends and have been fortunate to enjoy the hospitality of the local bridge club where we have been welcome and enjoyed some very fun nights of duplicate bridge. I also had a chance to play at the two local golf courses which I enjoyed greatly.
Just after I arrived back from my brief visit home, Bradley and Gareth were invited to crew aboard a boat participating in the Hog's Breath Race Week, in partnership with our good friends David and Marilyn who run a charter boat business here in the Whitsundays. Hog's Breath is a local chain of pubs and the sponsor this annual event. The boat was a 40-foot Bavaria, part of David's charter fleet and not a real racing boat, but good enough to compete in the cruising division. With a crew that had never really sailed together before, it did not win any trophies, but everyone had a lot of fun. I even got to be aboard for the final race, a long one where we actually did alright, finishing 10th out of 23 boats, despite a little problem getting our spinnaker up.
The following week, the racing shifted to nearby Hamilton Island. Though we weren't participating, our good friend Neil from New Zealand was here to crew on a boat in that event. It was good to catch up with him. We had a bit of a problem with our anchor windlass (the winch that raises the anchor) which took several days to get repaired. After that we stopped in for some of the Hamilton Island festivities, including a big party at Whitehaven Beach.
Next it was time to meet up with our new friends Viv and John from Mooloolaba who were coming cruising with us for a week. We didn't know them that well. I met Viv in Mooloolaba where she works in a coffee shop. I used to stop in for a latte every day after my morning run and we would chat. After she learned that we lived on a boat, she told me about her partner John and how he was planning to participate in an around the world race next year. Well, we invited them over for drinks, and that led to dinner, and that led to another dinner and an invitation to them to join us for some cruising. So they made the ten hour drive from Mooloolaba and met us in Airlie Beach on a Saturday night. The weather looked good for an early Sunday departure. Just before dinner, Viv used the head (toilet) and reported that it didn't seem to flush properly. We assumed she has hit the off switch with her knee or something simple so we were teasing her about breaking the toilet. But soon, it appeared we may have a serious problem. We could not get the toilet to flush. We have a fresh water, vacu-flush toilet system, which requires electrical power to create vacuum seal. For whatever reason, it wasn't getting power. Bradley began to look into it, but it wasn't looking good. Viv felt bad that she broke the toilet, though we assured her it wasn't her fault. We did not think we could get someone to work on it on a Sunday, and didn't think that going out with just one toilet for five people would be a good idea. So we weren't a happy group when we sat down to dinner. But miraculously after dinner, Bradley got out the manual and we were able to somehow get it working. Great news and our trip was on again!
The next day we had a beautiful sail out to Bait Reef. We arrived by about 3:00pm, in time for some snorkeling. We donned our snorkel gear and jumped into the water right from the boat. Low and behold, right under the boat was an enormour fish - a wrasse - with huge lips. Last time we had been to Bait Reef, we had a pet fish that we had named Mick (after Mick Jagger) because of his lips. Well, it looked like Mick, or at least a close relative was still around two years later! We had a great dinner and some fun conversation. At one point, someone said something that made Viv's cheeks flush, thereby earning her the nickname "Flush".
On our second day at Bait Reef, we were all alone - no other boats in the anchorage. We noticed a boat making its way in and it got closer and closer and closer. It looked like it was intending to ram us. Bradley muttered "what does this idiot think he's doing?". Then Bradley looked a little closer and thought he recognized the helmsman, just as the guy called out "hey Shear Madness!". Well, it turned out to be our friend Warwick, who we had last seen in Hobart in December, just after the sudden and unfortunate death of his wife. He was with a woman named Marian and we soon learned they were on the first day of a 7-day blind date! They seemed to be having a fine time, but we thought it was pretty remarkable that the only boat within 50 miles of us would turn out to be someone we knew!
After a second day of beautiful snorkeling, it was time to move one. This time our destination was Black Reef, about a six hour sail. Black Reef is even more remote and has the added advantage of being a place where spearfishing is allowed. We had a pleasant sail, with John and Viv getting a chance to relax and enjoy themselves. Once securely anchored at Black Reef, we again went snorkeling, this time with Bradley armed with his spear gun. He soon demonstrated he had not lost his touch, netting several nice fish which made a great dinner. We spent two more days at Black Reef, enjoying the colorful coral and plentiful fish. The last day we were there was an eerily calm day. There wasn't a breeze to be seen and the water was as flat as a lake. It was truly exceptional and we had two lengthy snorkeling expeditions, and some more success filling the freezer with fish. The winds were due to pick up the next day and we planned to sail on to Whitehaven Beach.
Sure enough, we awoke to real wind. Shortly after exiting the reef it was blowing a hefty 25 knots. The dinghy, which we were towing begind us, was having a bit of a wild ride, but seemed to be doing OK. Viv, who had only sailed in Sydney Harbor and never in the open ocean, did just fine. It was a little rough, but not really uncomfortable and we made good time, arriving at Whitehaven in the late afternoon. Soon we were snugly anchored and enjoying another nice dinner. The next day, after a visit to the beautiful Whitehaven beach where the Aussies (John & Viv) trounced the Americans (me & Bradley) in a game of Pitanque (boules in the sand), it was time to head back to Airlie Beach where John and Viv would leave the next day. It was a pleasant trip and we enjoyed a final dinner onboard. Despite the inauspicious start, we all had had a great time and felt we had made some excellent new friends!
As the winds were supposed to be heavy for the next several days, we decided to stay put in the marina for a week and to spend the time visiting our friends in Airlie one last time, playing more bridge, and getting out on the golf course a couple more times. There are two golf courses in the area. The closest is at Proserpine, about a 30 minute drive. The other is a bit farther away but is a beautiful resort course called Laguna Quays (Keys). I was invited to play at Laguna Quays by our Swedish friend Sven and it was one of the most beautiful courses I have ever played. Set next to the sea, it has beautiful views of mountains, ocean, and great foliage and wildlife. We had a great time. I was also invited to play at Proserpine by Sven's wife Margaretta. The course is nice, but not as spectacular as Laguna. We had a great time though and on my next free day I decided to go back. On that day I was going to play alone and planned to take the bus. But due to some confusion I thought there was a bus every half hour. But it's really only every four hours and I missed the 10:30 bus. So I decided to try my luck at hitchhiking. After all, it had worked well in Tasmania! It took forever to get the first ride, more than 15 minutes. And that one only took me about a mile to the local shopping center. From there, it took another 15 minutes to get the next ride, which only took me three miles further. Now I was in no man's land - too far to walk back and hoping I could get to Proserpine! Soon, I was befriended by Vic, a rough looking guy who was a real sweetheart and was going all the way to Proserpine! Soon I was on the golf course enjoying a fun round. I was in time to catch the bus back and when I boarded the bus the driver looked at me and said "Hi, don't you recognize me?" I didn't until he took off his sunglasses and I realized he was the second guy who had picked me up that morning! I was lucky enough to get in another round at Proserpine with Margaretta's ladies group and also another trip to fill in at Laguna for Sven who was not able to make it to play with his regular foursome. All in all, some very enjoyable golf!